Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ward Surgery

Well another Ward Surgery tonight where a grand total of zero members of the public turned up. Every month we hold these non-events and every month almost no-one comes. All around the country there must be 1,000's and 1,000's of hours wasted in Councilor's Ward Surgeries that no-one ever goes to. Add in the cost of venues and the printing (in 10 languages) of Ward Surgery notices and I'll bet the amount of money wasted is immense. However, Ward Surgeries are one of the sacred cows of local politics! Just try and do away with ward surgeries and the flack really starts coming at you!

In my opinion Ward Surgeries are like Village Shops and woe betide anyone who tries to take them away. Of course no-one actually uses a village shop for their main grocery purchases, but everyone likes the thought of a Village Shop being there just in case they forget something in the weekly Supermarket visit and so need a local convenient place to buy a pint of milk, box of matches, birthday card, etc.

Ward Surgeries also remind me of a small village I drive through regularly on the way to visit a client in Hull. The regulars in the local pub had dwindled to almost zero and were so few that the pub couldn't maintain draft beer on tap due to sales being so low. As they lacked a decent pint the trade dropped off even more until the Landlord said enough is enough, closed the pub and applied to turn it into a private house rather than a public house. The result, massive outcry, the claim the pub was "the heart of the community" and a petition to the local planning committee demanding the application be refused.

The application was deferred for 6 months. The Landlord kept a diary of his customers and beer sales in this six month period. The only time any significant sales were recorded was in the two meetings held there by "regulars" to discuss keeping the pub open. The pub is now a very nice private house in an impressive location set back from the A19 between Thirst and York.

Councilor's Ward Surgeries are rather like this pub! Surgeries are "vital in the Democratic process" but no-one actually uses them, it's just seen as nice that they are held!

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