Nik Butler: Providing a diversion from otherwise mundane matters

The current verbal game of football in local politics is certainly providing a diversion from the otherwise mundane concerns of social housing, highway maintenance or pathway fouling. Watching from the sidelines you may think all democracy is political parties and letters to the editor. As if council proposals are based on verbal power play with policies planned by way of manifesto fudges or election promise errata. Spectators may enjoy the barbs and ripostes here in the paper or over on that “Internet” though it leaves many wondering what all these parties actually achieve?

There is however another party in those council meetings and I use the word party in its most general term. They represent the very real authority of the council represented by titles like Officer or Consultant on their job description. When the public protest council decisions rarely do they consider this group’s involvement. Budgets may be approved, charges amended, town centre renovation or bubblegum reclamation can be discussed within council meetings but it is the hard work of research, curation , presentation and documentation that falls to the officers of our council.

They invest experience and professional expertise into those projects before they can be presented to the council’s elected members and unless a councillor has a their own professional experience it will fall to those officers or consultants within that meeting to inform, I hesitate to suggest they direct, the council members. Try to imagine the editor of this paper publishing an article which must first be debated by a team of representatives who may have no professional qualification or experience in publishing. How then can the public qualify a debate on the decisions of a council when they cannot source the motivation for those ideas? Is this why the Conservative Party’s own Francis Maude MP has pushed for an open and accessible civil service?

If so then our MP might better detail what the public can expect to do with the information should they discover a a discrepancy between the presented information and the minuted agreements. Here then is a challenge to our council to take the new Garden Waste scheme and make public all the data.

Allow the taxpayer to evaluate the success or failure of this scheme and if the public start paying attention to the information how then might hidden cabinets and party meetings possibly influence the course of future meetings in Horsham.