Rupert Cox: Politics politics politics

Rupert Cox (c) Jeremy Long / JCL PHOTOGRAPHY

Rupert Cox (c) Jeremy Long / JCL PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Our columnist is getting political again this month

I try not to allow my column to be too political, but a few things have happened in the past month that have really got my gander up, and they are linked by one word - politics!

We have the continued jostling for position within the two main political parties on the detail around Brexit.

As highlighted by Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce at the Somerset Chamber’s Business Leaders’ Dinner, all the main political parties can be subdivided into clear factions on the issue of Brexit, with many of the more extreme views based on future personal aspirations of the protagonists and not on the UK’s future outside the European Union. The ruling party seems intent on consuming itself on the subject, while the main opposition’s position is to sit back and watch the soap opera unfold while offering no tangible solutions to debate - as they can’t agree amongst themselves either.

Dropping down a tier of government one can witness the posturing of councillors and MPs around the debate of a unitary council for Somerset. What is in the best interests of the Somerset resident? What is not in their best interest is watching and hearing Somerset’s MPs telling us what is good for us, when it’s really what is most convenient for them. This important issue needs some clear thinking without the ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ attitude of more than 300 councillors in Somerset - yes 300, when there are only 650 MPs for the entire nation.

Finally, as previously documented, I have been co-opted back on to Long Sutton Parish Council. A council that 20 years ago regularly had an election for councillors, but for the past three terms has relied on willing volunteers to keep the council quorate. This is not uncommon and as I am finding out, not surprising. When I was first elected on to the council back in 1983 everyone came with an open mind, debated strongly but fairly, and was a respected resident. How things have changed! The council is no longer a key consultee in the planning process, now it’s just another consultee where more than 90 per cent of all applications are delegated to officers to determine. Because of this, and other diluted powers, the respect of residents has waned and, together with the introduction of Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosures, councillors and potential councillors are thinking ‘what’s the point?’.

Our council has been subjected to a barrage of FOI disclosures over recent years usually from individuals who don’t like the decisions the council has made. Rather than accept democracy and freedom of speech they use it as a tool to bully, harass and even gag councillors from expressing their views on behalf of their electorate.

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I am probably asking for the impossible, but isn’t it time that all our elected figures take a much wider strategic view of the matters at hand rather than taking a narrow stance that is either driven by a noisy minority, is used to enhance the chances of being re-elected or other self-interests, or is the result of a more sinister pressure from bullies? I live in hope that a new breed of robust community leader will step forward and take the initiative in either the local and national interest - and not their own.

Rupert Cox is the CEO of the Royal Bath and West Society. For more from Rupert, follow him on Twitter! @rupert_rbw