Friday, 25 January 2008

Hidden talent

Councillors do not have a particularly good reputation for changing the world.

It is difficult to remember reading any mainstream media discussing their work, unless it is conjunction with some sleazy scandal, often involving planning.

So their invisibility is a problem. People do not know what they do, how they do it or why they are there. And maybe sometimes the councillors get confused also, explaining why Private Eye can fill a page or more each edition with tales of dubious practice amongst councillors.

Local government is, I'm afraid, almost terminally unfashionable. When I studied British politics the local bit was always the dullest, the part that seemed most worthy, and so least interesting.

Radicalism tends towards the grandiose. I often see people reading Noam Chomsky's striking re-interpretations of world history on the train; rarely do I spy works written by leading localists such as Gerry Stoker.

I have only ever written to a councillor once. And that was last week (as recorded below).

I received a very positive response, I am glad to say. Councillor Sue Luxton, the lucky recipient of my email, sent me an informative response, as well as a message of good luck and a link to here from her blog. Can't say better than that!

In answer to my question, she said confirmed that objections to planning applications have to be specific and that it is worth checking here for more detail. She also notes that the grounds for objecting to an advertising board – the issue at hand – are more limited than for other applications (presumably because of their temporary nature?).

Finally, she noted that my local councillor is called Dean Walton, who is also a member of the Green Party and another blogger. He's my next port of call.

Dean's blog suggests that he has a say in some of the borough's planning decisions, so that is interesting to know. He might have something to say about the badly cut-down tree that so vexed me earlier in the week.

Again it is good to see the internet being used in such a positive way in the locality. All councillors should work to make their work more transparent, and I thoroughly support those that are taking even small steps towards doing so.


Andrew Brown said...

You're quite right about the perception of local government being worthy but dull. My experience of it was different, but perhaps I'm a positive sort of person.

If you're interested in planning in your area you might find this site useful.

Tom said...

Thanks Andrew - those mysociety folk have come up with another neat idea. Cheers for the link!