Here’s a novel idea…ask the residents what they think!

All too often on this blog, we’ve been obliged to write about local authorities imposing their grandiose schemes on us mere plebs with only the occasional token attempt at any form of ‘consultation’. Regardless of whether it’s the Basildon town centre masterplan or Thurrock becoming a freeport, the feeling is that these are things that are done to us rather than anything we have a meaningful stake in. With talk of the re-organisation of local governance in the air and possible mergers of local authorities, again it feels as though we’re merely spectators to our fates rather than active participants.

So, imagine our surprise when we read this piece on Thurrock Nub News about the possible merger of Thurrock and Basildon councils: Let the residents have a say on what happens says councillor for who ‘BasRock’ would be ‘groundhog day’. Cllr. John Kent, the leader of the Labour group on Thurrock Council has said that residents need to have a direct say on any possible merger. That goes right up to putting it to a local referendum. Yes, a local councillor has actually said that talking to residents before engaging in massive change is a necessary part of the process! You may need to lie down in a darkened room to absorb the enormity of this…

People want to feel that local councils actually care about their hopes and aspirations as well as being willing and able to act on their concerns. Rightly, they want their local council to be accountable to them. The larger an area and population covered by an authority, the less in touch residents feel with it. They feel that larger authorities have their own agendas, one being to serve the needs of the developers and big business as opposed to the residents. As an aside, it has to be noted that smaller authorities also follow this kind of agenda as well.

The point is that Cllr. Kent has called for a conversation about how our local authorities go forward in the future. While we don’t often see eye to eye with him, on this occasion, we’re happy to back his call for residents to be fully consulted about any changes to the way our local authorities operate. Look, we’re realists and recognise that under the current political, economic and social system, we’re never going to get anywhere near what we would like to see in terms of how our local affairs are managed. It may be that all the conversation Cllr. Kent is calling for achieves is to limit the damage done by the hubristic ambitions of some of our local leaders. More interestingly, it may shine a light on just how unfit for purpose the system of local and national governance we have really is. That’s when things could get really interesting…

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