Thursday, 29 March 2012

Picking your team

Can you imagine how successful the England football team would be if before every match the England manager was able to pick some of the players who would playing on the opposing team? If England could keep the stronger players from the other side sitting on the bench then it would vastly increase England's chances of winning. Even better if England could get some of its second rate players, who hold dual nationality, into the opposing country's squad, then England could pick players for the opposition who are actively working against their own side. It would be like England have 12 or 13 men on the pitch even though only 11 would be wearing the three lions on their chest.

It could never happen of course.

Unfortunately that is exactly what does happen in the Hartlepool Council Chamber when it comes to deciding which councillors will sit on which committees.

Under the current constitution of Hartlepool Council there are numerous committees and forums and one of the assumptions made within the laws governing the operation of local government is that council committees and decision making will have “political balance”. This is supposed to prevent one party dominating the council even though they may not have an overall majority of the councillors.

Each of these committees and forums will have a number of councillors assigned to it plus a nominated Chairman and Vice Chairman. Take the Planning Committee. That has 16 members and political balance gives seven members to the Labour party, three Tories, two Liberal Democrats and four independents. The Chairman of the committee is almost always Labour and the Vice Chair is usually a Tory. This make up may seem very fair?

However, the numbers of councillors are set by political balance but who the individual councillors are in those seats is decided by the political party leaders. The Labour party therefore chose the Chairman of the committee and six councillors. The decision is made for political reasons and favours for favours, not because of any councillor's knowledge, experience or training. The Tory Party chose the vice chair and two other councillors, likewise the lib-dems chose their own representatives. Which leaves the independent seats. Each individual independent is free to put their name forward as an individual for the committees. If more than one wants the same seat then the decision is made by a vote of the full council. In other words the other political parties decide which independent will sit on the committee.

The make up may seem fair but in actual fact the political parties can block troublesome or outspoken independents from important committees if they wish to do so. Even better for the political parties is if they can get one of their own supporters onto the committee under the cover of being an independent. Labour for example only need one Labour supporting independent onto the committee and they have total control of planning in Hartlepool by using the chairman's casting vote in the event of an 8/8 tie. The committee may seem fair and balanced but its not. Rather like England having 13 men on the pitch even though only 11 are wearing the England Shirt.

So how can this be prevented. The ONLY way to stop the other political parties from cherry picking the councillors they want on the committees is for the independents to be a political party in their own right. This is why Putting Hartlepool First is a fully registered political party. When we get to nominate councillors to committees then we as a party can chose our own team and make sure the people in the seats are really putting Hartlepool First. Of course there will still be independent councillors who are not putting Hartlepool first and these individuals will continue to allow the political parties to decide which team they actually play for, regardless of the colour of the shirt they are wearing.

If you really want a team that puts Hartlepool first then there is only one way to vote on May 3rd. We are putting Hartlepool first! Will you?

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