Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A man’s word is his honour

Yesterday was the last full Council session before the election. We sadly said goodbye to people from all three parties who are not standing again in the elections on June 4th. There was a definite hint of “last day of school” about the place but we got through all the business and managed to finish by 4:00pm – a first since I was elected.

But the big news of the day had to be what’s happening in Westminster. Although I firmly believe the speaker did the right thing – proceedings last week and this can best be described as unedifying – I hope that this is not the end but truly is the beginning of remedying the state of affairs. I hope party leaders carry through with their proclamations about not letting people stand if they have abused the rules – but I also hope that the Met Commissioner and the DPP do something to hold those who have abused the expense system to account for their actions. Parliament shouldn’t be recommending that MPs pay Capital Gains Tax from now on – Joe Public doesn’t have the right to that sort of concession. I’m sure hard up pensioners would like the choice as to whether or not to pay their Council Tax or buy food.

Rant over – but national politicians will lose what little credibility they have if they don’t carry through with the suggestions they made yesterday. Those of us locally pounding the streets are being lumped in with them and night after night have to explain that we do most of our work voluntarily.

One retiring Councillor yesterday pointed out that if we want to encourage younger councillors – those in their 20s and 30s - then we have to pay them a fair salary. Cambridgeshire has a budget of close to a billion pounds. Effective oversight of the efficient spending of such a budget requires not only competent officials, but competent and effective elected representatives. This will not be achieved if only the retired and the rich can afford to be councillors.

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