Cycle of elections

In writing the last entry, I noticed this report on the Electoral commission website. It looks like they’re proposing all-out, four yearly elections for all local elections.

I used to be very much against the four yearly elections. There is always the possibility of winning back control of a council if there are elections each year. It also means that a party can keep campaigning on local issues during the quiet years. However, having seen it close up in an area where Labour is in opposition but with a difference of one or two seats, it strikes me that four year elections are a good idea.

For one thing, it would bring more consistency to the council administration, whatever party were in control. It would also give space for the opposition to find it’s feet and to work with the council rather than be on an election footing all the time.

I think it should be welcomed. I can’t see the government wanting to do much with it before the regional assembly referendums, but you never know. It might be that they try to bring in the two things together should there be a “yes” vote.

Postal votes in the North West

The house of lords voted to remove the North West from the list of trial regions in June.

The reasons given range from the risk of fraud to the fact that ballot papers are sent out a couple of weeks before election day, apparently before people have made up their mind. Mainly the excuse seems to be that the electoral commission had only proposed two areas and then the government wanted to run the trials in four.

The commission also said that local elections should be run as postal votes, and that the government should change the law to enable this. So it follows that they don’t think that fraud is an issue.

The LibDem MEP locally said that postal votes were only “for the lazy”. Ignoring the fact that this chap uses such stories just for self promotion, it sums up the true position of the Liberals and Tories who prefer their safety in small numbers.

Budget differences

What should the budget be for? Cllr Owens at the district budget last night said that it shouldn’t be about throwing money at people – a reference to details in the Labour budget that he clearly knew was coming.

Both budgets were clearly written with one eye on the election in June (perhaps even both eyes). The Tories with a very simple budget, pushing forward themes that they have been pursuing for the past couple of years – recycling and cleaner streets. The Labour budget aimed at the bigger picture: keeping promises from last year (free pest control, beacon visitor centre, cemetary) and a new pledge for capital funding for regeneration of the council estates.

Although they’re taking the credit, the conservative budget is actually implementing Labour policies and appears to be based on money coming from central government and from the county council. It also means that a Labour controlled council would be doing the same thing anyway. In real terms, it is a standstill budget.

The Labour budget on the other hand, is taking the freedoms that have been allowed by the Labour government and using them to create a budget for regeneration.

The Conservatives are claiming that the Labour budget is mortgaging the people of West Lancashire. That Labour is irresponsible, vindictive even!

The truth of the matter is that all councils borrow, and the Conservatives have borrowed while in power. The difference is that Labour is targetting the spend towards the council estates that need the investment, rather than the rural Tory strongholds or their target seats.

A more prosperous Skelmersdale would mean a better West Lancashire for everyone. Skelmersdale is already the industrial heart of the district. With the changes to business rates that the government is proposing, a prosperous Skelmersdale would mean much more money for the local council, and more available for further investment into front line services.

The conservatives will give a knee-jerk reaction to the Labour budget, but their budget is about standing still, while our budget is about looking forward, building a future and taking the first steps towards it.

Boundary Survey

In the end I received 29 responses to the survey. I delivered around 600 letters, so that represents approx 0.5% response. Of course, more would have been better, but I’ll send a note to the committee with details of these responses.

13 were returned by post, and 14 were returned by email or through the webpage and I received two phone calls.

The breakdown is:

  • Merge into Wigan : 10
  • Single Unitary Lancashire : 2
  • Central Lancashire : 4
  • Unitary West Lancs : 12
  • Other : 1

The “Other” option was a request for “no change”.

There was a mention in the Advertiser that I had received more Wigan submissions than the other options, which was true at the time. Following that article I received another five or six forms which were mostly for the unitary West Lancs option.

It’s difficult to draw too much of a conclusion from these numbers. However, it’s clear that the vast majority did not return the survey, and perhaps that means we should be focussing on the real issues affecting people in Up Holland. Out of those who did return the survey, I take it that there is basically an equal feeling towards Wigan as towards West Lancs.

In defense of the small number of returns, I must note that the vital villages meetings, which were intended to push forward community issues, had about the same percentage interest from the community, possibly even less.

Boundary Changes – Survey closed

I’ve turned off the boundary change survey and removed the link. I had a few submissions, though not as many as I’d hoped (I’ll put up the results tomorrow when I sort them out). It was unfortunate that I basically had to stop putting out the letters, since I think that Parish Councillors should be able to survey people in their ward.

It’s all been very quiet

I’ve been off for two weeks after having a small operation on my nose! (a septoplasty). Time spent writing leaflets and trying to get the boundary submission written… which I haven’t even nearly done yet. I guess it’s back to business here in the run up to the budgets, elections, right to manage and greenbelt campaigns.