Dangers with good causes grant

First published in Letters

DURING first visit to a Malvern Hills District Council meeting, councillors debated the reintroduction of councillors' 'good causes' grants. Although it was adopted, I see dangers with the format chosen.

Every councillor being free to allocate up £500 a year for good causes in their ward is most welcome. It can be split or granted in its entirety; nothing wrong with that.

Up to £5,000 on a first-come first-served basis; now that worries me, even if some committee is to decide upon the merits of any grant.

With just one year to an election, the dominant party could (and probably will) combine councillor's Malvern Hills District Council's £5,000 bids to provide up to £15,000 of the total £20,000 budget in one swipe.

Where the dominant party also has £10,000 per county councillor divisional fund to throw into the 'look what we have done' pot, the political bias opportunities are breathtakingly tilted in their favour as we build up to the 2015 election.

As the eyes and ears of a party aligned – predominantly absent from their ward – county councillor, a district councillor can telephone the former and highlight a 'good place' for a grant from divisional (county) taxpayer funds.

The district councillor can recommend to the good cause that the MP makes a visit for a handshake and grin toward camera.

Using public money, the district councillor, county councillor and MP then all appear in the press, giving the false impression that one party is doing all the work, and are the best listeners when it comes to resident interaction.

The district councillor will get warm recognition in the political party magazine, and will most likely be awarded a 'portfolio' after the election, with significant associated financial gain.

Malvern Hills District Council's February 2014 decision to award an allowance of £1,000 each to the leaders of the political parties; now taxpayers will be so impressed by that, surely it will just be used for election leaflets to support the candidates of that party?

The only party leader to act with integrity was Julian Roskams, Green party. He voted against the allowances and vowed to donate any allowance paid to him to charity.

Martin Lawrence

Malvern town councillor

Comments (4)

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2:53pm Sat 17 May 14

zymurgiac says...

Returning to reading the Gazette, after a few weeks absence, little seems to have changed in the letters page ( Friday 17th May). The same letter writers were still beating on about councillor's allowances and how virtuous councillors would be by doing it all for free. In this letter, Town Councillor Lawrence at last declares his support for the Green party. Frankly, District councillors deserve payment to suffer the stream of bile that pours from the pens of the gang of four or five whose profession is founded on harassing the District Council through the letters pages. To what end?
Having attended a few council meetings and planning meetings in the past year, there is clearly a small group of local politicos who also specialise in personal attacks on council officers and the more prominent and hard working council politicians. I believe it to be true that there are some amongst the council backbenchers who need sacking because of their public utterances and behaviour. But public harangue and long-winded, boring repeats of half truths and plain untruths helps no one and undermines democracy. So please, will the other members of the 'Gang' now come clean and declare who they are supporting and who they want to run the council post May 2015.
Returning to reading the Gazette, after a few weeks absence, little seems to have changed in the letters page ( Friday 17th May). The same letter writers were still beating on about councillor's allowances and how virtuous councillors would be by doing it all for free. In this letter, Town Councillor Lawrence at last declares his support for the Green party. Frankly, District councillors deserve payment to suffer the stream of bile that pours from the pens of the gang of four or five whose profession is founded on harassing the District Council through the letters pages. To what end? Having attended a few council meetings and planning meetings in the past year, there is clearly a small group of local politicos who also specialise in personal attacks on council officers and the more prominent and hard working council politicians. I believe it to be true that there are some amongst the council backbenchers who need sacking because of their public utterances and behaviour. But public harangue and long-winded, boring repeats of half truths and plain untruths helps no one and undermines democracy. So please, will the other members of the 'Gang' now come clean and declare who they are supporting and who they want to run the council post May 2015. zymurgiac
  • Score: -1

12:43pm Sun 18 May 14

Casmal says...

zymurgiac wrote:
Returning to reading the Gazette, after a few weeks absence, little seems to have changed in the letters page ( Friday 17th May). The same letter writers were still beating on about councillor's allowances and how virtuous councillors would be by doing it all for free. In this letter, Town Councillor Lawrence at last declares his support for the Green party. Frankly, District councillors deserve payment to suffer the stream of bile that pours from the pens of the gang of four or five whose profession is founded on harassing the District Council through the letters pages. To what end?
Having attended a few council meetings and planning meetings in the past year, there is clearly a small group of local politicos who also specialise in personal attacks on council officers and the more prominent and hard working council politicians. I believe it to be true that there are some amongst the council backbenchers who need sacking because of their public utterances and behaviour. But public harangue and long-winded, boring repeats of half truths and plain untruths helps no one and undermines democracy. So please, will the other members of the 'Gang' now come clean and declare who they are supporting and who they want to run the council post May 2015.
Well, how very interesting, zymurgiac. It is certainly clear who you support, but I wonder if you are going to come clean and admit who you are? So, you've been to a few Council and planning meetings? I have not been to any of the latter - apart from those concerned with the SWDP, where there was no "gang of 4/5" but a large hall full of very concerned residents from all over the District - but according to media reports these meetings are filled with angry and concerned residents. Have you not noticed them or are the reports untrue?

As for your other statements: In reading this I took Martin Lawrence to be backing Cllr. Roskams' actions in donating his rise to Charity, not Cllr. Roskams himself;

No letter I have read has suggested Cllrs should do the job for free. What is being objected to is MHDC Cllrs awarding themselves enormous rises, many times the rate of inflation, at a time of austerity, having pegged staff rises to 1% and stated clearly that ward budgets were a lower priority than the allowances. To add further perspective to this decision, all other Councils that I know of in our region have refused to increase allowances;

As for an alleged "Gang" perhaps you would like to be more specific. I can assure you that I have never been a member of any gang or political party. Neither do I align myself entirely to any party's or any individual's views and beliefs. I read around the subject and form my own views. I am an individual who takes an interest to look in detail at the work of the District Council, ask questions and express my views and concerns. That surely is the role of the public - to hold elected politicians to account.

The quote from David "Taylor" Leader of the Council says it all. In a call for greater openness and transparency he responds that this is "an obvious attempt to damage our reputation." How on earth can greater democracy damage the council's reputation?

I commend you to read the Councils own report on its investigation into the wheelie bin introduction, entitled "Lessons to be learnt....". That report contains disturbing evidence that democratic processes were bypassed and it contains numerous recommendations on how the processes must become more open and transparent, including greater involvement of full council. Interesting that, despite Executive Committee endorsing the report, we now have Cllr Hughes saying that such a move will damage the Council's reputation!

As for truths and half-truths, I commend you to check up on what the various letter writers are saying. You will find they are true. That is exactly what I did and how I got involved in the wheelie bin fiasco. I had no knowledge of or interest in the subject until I read the concerns of others in letters and articles. I googled various things for myself and made some very interesting discoveries, including how the Council was ignoring the strong possibility of legal action being taken against it by the EU - something that is still possible.

The SWDP was pushed through undemocratically and against accepted practice - the issue being revisited within two months of a democratic decision and overturned by the use of a three line whip. Now we have the possibility of a joint CE with Wychavon, which, it appears from questions asked at the last Council meeting, full Council was unaware of.

As for your last question, I don't care who has the majority as long as they are honest, open and act in the best interests of their electorate. Over the years I have never voted for a political party, I have voted for the candidate who I believe will best represents the needs of the ward and it's residents. Those candidates have come from a range of political parties, including the major parties. The problem with MHDC and indeed many local authority councils is that too many councillors blindly follow the party line or the Leader's line. When questioned or asked to clarify their stance it is clear that such Cllrs. have little understanding of the issues and even less knowledge. They merely accept what they are told and follow instructions.

So zymurgiac, I've answered your question. Will you now answer mine?
[quote][p][bold]zymurgiac[/bold] wrote: Returning to reading the Gazette, after a few weeks absence, little seems to have changed in the letters page ( Friday 17th May). The same letter writers were still beating on about councillor's allowances and how virtuous councillors would be by doing it all for free. In this letter, Town Councillor Lawrence at last declares his support for the Green party. Frankly, District councillors deserve payment to suffer the stream of bile that pours from the pens of the gang of four or five whose profession is founded on harassing the District Council through the letters pages. To what end? Having attended a few council meetings and planning meetings in the past year, there is clearly a small group of local politicos who also specialise in personal attacks on council officers and the more prominent and hard working council politicians. I believe it to be true that there are some amongst the council backbenchers who need sacking because of their public utterances and behaviour. But public harangue and long-winded, boring repeats of half truths and plain untruths helps no one and undermines democracy. So please, will the other members of the 'Gang' now come clean and declare who they are supporting and who they want to run the council post May 2015.[/p][/quote]Well, how very interesting, zymurgiac. It is certainly clear who you support, but I wonder if you are going to come clean and admit who you are? So, you've been to a few Council and planning meetings? I have not been to any of the latter - apart from those concerned with the SWDP, where there was no "gang of 4/5" but a large hall full of very concerned residents from all over the District - but according to media reports these meetings are filled with angry and concerned residents. Have you not noticed them or are the reports untrue? As for your other statements: In reading this I took Martin Lawrence to be backing Cllr. Roskams' actions in donating his rise to Charity, not Cllr. Roskams himself; No letter I have read has suggested Cllrs should do the job for free. What is being objected to is MHDC Cllrs awarding themselves enormous rises, many times the rate of inflation, at a time of austerity, having pegged staff rises to 1% and stated clearly that ward budgets were a lower priority than the allowances. To add further perspective to this decision, all other Councils that I know of in our region have refused to increase allowances; As for an alleged "Gang" perhaps you would like to be more specific. I can assure you that I have never been a member of any gang or political party. Neither do I align myself entirely to any party's or any individual's views and beliefs. I read around the subject and form my own views. I am an individual who takes an interest to look in detail at the work of the District Council, ask questions and express my views and concerns. That surely is the role of the public - to hold elected politicians to account. The quote from David "Taylor" Leader of the Council says it all. In a call for greater openness and transparency he responds that this is "an obvious attempt to damage our reputation." How on earth can greater democracy damage the council's reputation? I commend you to read the Councils own report on its investigation into the wheelie bin introduction, entitled "Lessons to be learnt....". That report contains disturbing evidence that democratic processes were bypassed and it contains numerous recommendations on how the processes must become more open and transparent, including greater involvement of full council. Interesting that, despite Executive Committee endorsing the report, we now have Cllr Hughes saying that such a move will damage the Council's reputation! As for truths and half-truths, I commend you to check up on what the various letter writers are saying. You will find they are true. That is exactly what I did and how I got involved in the wheelie bin fiasco. I had no knowledge of or interest in the subject until I read the concerns of others in letters and articles. I googled various things for myself and made some very interesting discoveries, including how the Council was ignoring the strong possibility of legal action being taken against it by the EU - something that is still possible. The SWDP was pushed through undemocratically and against accepted practice - the issue being revisited within two months of a democratic decision and overturned by the use of a three line whip. Now we have the possibility of a joint CE with Wychavon, which, it appears from questions asked at the last Council meeting, full Council was unaware of. As for your last question, I don't care who has the majority as long as they are honest, open and act in the best interests of their electorate. Over the years I have never voted for a political party, I have voted for the candidate who I believe will best represents the needs of the ward and it's residents. Those candidates have come from a range of political parties, including the major parties. The problem with MHDC and indeed many local authority councils is that too many councillors blindly follow the party line or the Leader's line. When questioned or asked to clarify their stance it is clear that such Cllrs. have little understanding of the issues and even less knowledge. They merely accept what they are told and follow instructions. So zymurgiac, I've answered your question. Will you now answer mine? Casmal
  • Score: 1

1:01pm Sun 18 May 14

sarah and her chickens says...

How does free speech undermine democracy ?? I thought free speech and holding decision makers to account promoted good decisions. After all not to allow people to question decisions is a dictatorship. The lib dems after 12 months within the administration are now wanting to hold it to account. So we have 19 tories with some vocal back benchers and 10 democratic group and 8 lib dems. That is a fairly even split. Should be an interesting year.
As for 2015 I think that as many independent candidates should stand. Party political bickering should be ditched.
How does free speech undermine democracy ?? I thought free speech and holding decision makers to account promoted good decisions. After all not to allow people to question decisions is a dictatorship. The lib dems after 12 months within the administration are now wanting to hold it to account. So we have 19 tories with some vocal back benchers and 10 democratic group and 8 lib dems. That is a fairly even split. Should be an interesting year. As for 2015 I think that as many independent candidates should stand. Party political bickering should be ditched. sarah and her chickens
  • Score: 3

9:20pm Wed 21 May 14

sarah and her chickens says...

Have been thinking about who would make a good leader. Almost impossible but given that it needs to be someone that can bring everyone together. That could get all 38 Councillors involved and improve communication and transparency and get everyone working together my vote would be Cllr Jan Marriott. With Cllr Roskams as deputy leader.
Have been thinking about who would make a good leader. Almost impossible but given that it needs to be someone that can bring everyone together. That could get all 38 Councillors involved and improve communication and transparency and get everyone working together my vote would be Cllr Jan Marriott. With Cllr Roskams as deputy leader. sarah and her chickens
  • Score: 0

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