Knowsley’s Broken Democracy, Part 2: Absolute Power

By on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

knowsley_council_democracyThe second in a series of opinion pieces by the editor. (Read Part 1 here.)

(Too long, didn’t read? The gist: A one-party council is never democratic. With no opposition, local government can do whatever it likes. Vote wisely for a voice that really represents you.)

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

It is never a good idea to put power exclusively in the hands of a single party. Whether it’s Labour, Lib Dem or Tory, a government that has free rein to do what it wants, without an opposition to hold it to account, is a dangerous government.

Can you imagine a parliament with nothing but Conservative members? We would never put up with such an undemocratic national government – so why do we tolerate it at local level?

Knowsley is one of the few boroughs in the country to be controlled 100 percent by a single party, in this case Labour.

Who stands up when the council makes the wrong decision? Who argues the toss and presents the case for the other side? Who speaks out to expose conflicting interests and oppose corruption of power?

Essentially, a one-party council can get away with anything.

In January, Knowsley Council voted unanimously to accept a Local Plan that removes 51 percent of the borough’s greenbelt. That means that over half our greenbelt can now be sold for development. Open green space that has benefited generations of residents will be lost permanently to new housing.

Granted, one or two Labour councillors said they opposed and still do oppose the plan. But they were absent from the vote (if that was your local councillor, you may want to ask them why) and the plan sailed through without opposition.

Could opposition councillors have made a difference?

How might the result have looked if Knowsley had even a handful of non-Labour elected representatives?

We may not have even reached this vote if there had been opposition councillors to ask questions, present other evidence and publicly scrutinise the actions of the majority. In the end, an entirely different plan might have been on the table if there had been more elected voices to challenge and ask questions at every step.

Instead, this role was left to campaigners. Many of them are traditional Labour supporters, but that doesn’t matter – red, blue or yellow, a council with absolute power is a bad idea. The campaigners did their best, but ultimately their protests were easily ignored. No one on the council represented them.

You can change it

Vote wisely on 5 May. Talk to the candidates in your area, and vote for the one you believe represents the interests of you and your community.

Knowsley Council depends on residents’ loyalty to Labour to keep the status quo. They know you’ve always voted Labour, that your parents and grandparents likely voted Labour before you, and that your children are likely to vote Labour after you.

Don’t let our councillors take your vote for granted just because they’re wearing a red rosette. Make them work for your vote. If they fail you, vote differently. Look at all the candidates – independent, Lib Dem, Conservative – and ask: Who will hold the council to account? Who will argue for me and my community? Who will ask tough questions and throw a spanner in the works when the majority want to push through a decision?

DLR

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