Recent Facebook exchanges have brought home the difficulty of getting across to people just how much Shirehall has changed, even in such a relatively short time as the four years since the 2013 local elections that saw me get a landslide win at the polls.
People still think in terms of “the local council”, whereas the reality has more to do with central government than the local government of old. What we have is, as I wrote a few years ago, central government by proxy.
Local policies, if not directly dictated by central government, are directly influenced by central government through fiscal (‘financial’) controls, controls that direct what local councils do by restricting their options, their freedom to act otherwise than in the way central government wants them to act.
No way can a local council enact policies it deems appropriate for their local community if they conflict with what central government wants to achieve nationally.
Now that’s a hell of a thing and so it’s not surprising that the general public have a problem accepting that it’s happened, which probably goes some way to explaining their anger when they see their own perfectly reasonable ideas for “practical” solutions to local problems being ignored by an Establishment that acts as if it knows best.
I’ve been accused of being too confrontational to engage collaboratively with other people, of getting people’s backs up. That’s an interesting observation, not least because anyone who says that obviously cannot distinguish between cause and effect, because even Pollyanna’s smile would start to wear thin after operating in the benignly corrupt political atmosphere of Shirehall.
In fact, people who say that about me are either lying for their own ends, or speak in ignorance of what I’ve done in committee because individual contributions aren’t recorded, and differences of opinion certainly aren’t noted – but they’re certainly taken away and brooded upon because I get “the look” at the next meeting. Perhaps it’s that which “informs” the opinion of people who claim to know so much about me.
Being in committee isn’t all about putting your hand up so as not to fall out with anyone, being in committee is about looking for the truth by seeking out and assessing all the evidence you can lay your hands on that will inform yours and the committee’s thinking. Oh, and avoiding the kind of confirmation bias that being a member of a political party tends to incline you towards. After all, heaven forbid that you should dare to think for yourself. Thinking like that is what gets you black-balled, but I see that as denoting membership of a very exclusive club.
Confirmation bias (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias ) is pernicious, probably the single most dangerous element at Shirehall.
My cousin Betty, who seems to have been a member of one or other Shropshire councils for most of her 80-odd years, advised me to watch and listen for the first 12 months and identify who the “players” were; the redoubtable Elizabeth Yeomans (RIP) gave me much the same advice. Well, I managed to hold out for all of three months and then it became obvious that Betty and Elizabeth were basing their advice on what they’d known throughout their distinguished lives in Local Authorities. The reality is that the world they knew no longer exists.
Direct action no longer works no matter how hard you wishful-think it. Even when that direct action is driven by a force that believes itself to be invincible, against the immovable object of political obduracy wishful thinking is just that – wishful thinking. So dream on.
It’s a slog to bring about a change of thinking on the part of the Establishment. I learned pretty quickly that it couldn’t be done directly, so I did it indirectly by taking on the Establishment where it was most vulnerable – on the blind-side their arrogance had created.
The tactic got two-thirds of what I wanted to achieve, but that two-thirds was more than any other individual or Opposition political group had managed to achieve since the District Councils were disbanded and Shropshire County Council morphed into Shropshire (Unitary) Council – courtesy of Gordon Brown’s Labour government and against the expressed wishes of 84% of the electorate of Shropshire in 2009.
So, those two-thirds? Well…
It was my Code of Conduct Complaint that got the disastrous folly of ip&e stopped when its chairman was judged to be in breach of the Code and was told to resign.
It was a consequence of that action that stopped the sale of Shirehall (actually scheduled for May 2016) and ended the transfer of personnel and functions away from Shirehall and into ip&e – that process was reversed.
So, the guy who is so confrontational that he achieves nothing brought all that about? Surely not. Afraid so.
You might note that the information that proved there was a case to answer over the way ip&e had been set up, and the way the company had subsequently been managed, had first been given to Alan Mosley, Leader of the Labour Group at Shirehall. He did nothing with it.
The information was then passed to the LibDems who did nothing with it.
Having seen a letter of mine in the Shropshire Star critical of ip&e, the guy with the information that proved there was a case to answer over the way ip&e had been set up, Len Evans of Oswestry, phoned me and I drove up to Oswestry to see him the following day. The rest is history, as that clip from a couple of weeks ago in the Shropshire Star testifies.
Two out of three ain’t bad. And that’s just the county-wide story; locally, there is simply too much to relate at this time but I’ll get around to it very soon.
Oh, and the third objective? A more effective system of scrutiny, something which other candidates in the forthcoming local elections are now picking up on. A bit late to the party, but hey, better late than never. If they want a briefing note on the subject then they couldn’t do better than see blog #32: You might say that but I couldn’t possibly comment.