Reward councillors for their hard work and dedication

Earlier this week I reported on a comment attributed to Grant Shapps during his love-in with Jason Kitcat, a councillor of this Parish. Mr Shapps is said to have expressed the view that councillors should not be paid, and neither should Members of Parliament.

Linda asks if Jason Kitkat had actually asked Grant Shapps about extra funding for councillors to cover childcare.  She writes: “Being a councillor is not (or should not be) a full-time job, it’s voluntary, like being a magistrate etc.  I presume people shouldn’t volunteer to become councillors if they don’t have the spare time to fulfil the duties of their post.”

I agree with Clive’s sarcastic response to Linda: “Quite right. Only rich people who can afford childcare should be allowed to be councillors, what-what?”

In an area like Brighton and Hove, being a councillor is almost a full time job, not least if you are a Cabinet member of a leading opposition spokesperson. It raises the question: what sort of person do we want as our elected representatives? Do we just want people who are well off (ie. rich) to become councillors? Do we just want ‘professional’ activists – those who work for MPs (Bishop Brian, Momma Grizzly, etc.)?

Paul Perrin suggests asks “how about ensuring that candidates for the council have had a reasonably wide experience of normal life before the become councillors? There’s a thought!”

It is not easy being a candidate or councillor. Someone recently commented that it seems to be easier to progress as a political employee than someone with a non-political career. Several former Green councillors did not stand at the recent elections because they found being a Councillor was not compatible with progressing their careers.

Again, I agree with Clive: “It may not be the best time to suggest childcare allowances for councillors given the general picture. But, having read Jason Kitcat’s blog, it seems to me that the really extraordinary point is Grant Shapps’ suggestion that even MPs ought not to be paid, let alone councillors. How reactionary are some of these people! It’s like local Tory wire-puller Mike Holland, and his brilliant idea of reserving half the council’s seats for business people (and how on earth would you define that precisely?) Representative government ought to be what it says, and to that end some effort ought to be made – though perhaps not right now – to encourage more councillors with young families.  My impresssion is that there aren’t too many at the moment – perhaps if there had been more the city wouldn’t have reached crisis point over schools places?”

I think a fundamental reform is needed. Let’s reduce the number of councillors from 54 to, say, 24, and let’s pay them a decent wage commensurate with the responsibilities they carry. Give them proper admin support so that they can work full time on leading the city.

I have no sympathy with the view that it should be a voluntary endeavour. Give the Kitcats child care. Pay maternity and paternity leave. Make pension contributions. If I was a councillor, I would want to do it as a full time job, get properly rewarded for doing a good job. I wouldn’t want to end my term looking 84 rather than my actual 24…..

A final footnote on political love-ins. Paul Perrin, he of UKIP fame, asks whether it was a freudian slip when I referred to him as “Pal” Perrin’. He asks if I am going soft and reminded me that I said that I would rather stick pins in my eyes than vote UKIP. That remains the case, but I have grown rather fond of my pal Perrin in spite of his views. But, yes, Sweetie, I am going soft.

Naming names and ‘outing’ people

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens reflecting on a comment left on this blog yesterday. Tom Matthews wrote of ‘greenpartymember’: “If you’re going to pretend to be a Green Party member, don’t make your username ‘greenpartymember’”.

This has forced me to think about the number of people who engage with this blog but who hide behind made up names, such as Baron Pepperpot, Steampunk, Hove Lawn, Dr Faust, The Ghost of Nobby Clarke, the Tory Tipster, and Christopher Hawtree.

Others have been masquerading with names such as The Estate Agent, Momma Grizzly, le Toothbrush, Bishop Brian, and The Buddha. Rumour has it that these people are, in reality, Rob Buckwell, Rachael Bates, Mike Macfarlane, Brian Oxley and Bill Randall.

What is it about these people who make comments but not in their own names? I think it is nothing short of a disgrace!

The division in the Tory ranks is deep and it is wide

When I was a member of the Boys Brigade, we used to sing a song that went “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide …”. We had hand actions to emphasise thewords, and the speed of the song increased with each verse.

Walking along a corridor in Kings House the other day, I came across a group of Tory councillors singing that song, complete with hand movements. But the words have been changed: “Deep and wide, deep and wide, the division’s so deep and wide …”.

The split in the Tory Party is, indeed, deep and wide. And no more so than in Hangleton and Knoll. Following the untimely death of councillor David Smart, it had been expected that Jo Heard, the daughter of the retiring councillor for Central Hove, Averill Older, would be his natural successor.

But no, one of the Young Turks, Michael Ireland, has been parachuted into the seat. This is a source of a lot of unhappiness in the local Conservative association. Several members are in open rebellion and Jo Heard has, herself, cut her losses with the Tories and is standing as an Independent.

Jo is very well known in the area, has campaigned for years on various issues and is a highly respected fundraiser (for the Alzheimer’s Society). She has routes in the Church, having been active in St Andrew’s Church in Hove. I assume that Bishop Brian (Oxley) is sympathetic to Jo, but party loyalties prevent him from speaking out.

Another of Jo’s claim to fame was having her photograph reproduced on the side of a bus, dressed in a blue dress (appropriate for a Tory) and her arms spread wide “Deep and wide, deep and wide, etc etc”. Believe it or not, the bus was the number 5 to Hangleton, the very one that is about to be saved by Brian Fitch. What a tangled web we weave!

But what happened to that bus and Jo’s image. In June 2009 the bus was, sadly, repainted. And so, too, has Jo repainted her political allegiance. A Tory no more, she is standing as an independent.

Her entry into this election makes the outcome in Hangleton and Knoll most unpredictable. Dawn Barnett remains the favourite for re-election, but Tony Janio’s future is more uncertain. Michael Ireland is the Tory least likely to be elected. Brian Fitch, one of the most able and energetic campaigners inspite of approaching three score years and ten, can be counted on to make a very strong challenge. His cause is helped by Jo’s candidature. It is tough for an independent to be elected, but I would not rule Jo out altogether.