Councillors seem to be hemmed into a Code as fantastical and as faintly ridiculous as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code with more immediate ramifications even if they don't resonate across quite such a wide area.
The Code of Conduct that each councillor has to sign was introduced for some valid reasons, ensuring that councillors put their own interests aside whilst discharging their duties. As ever, the actual wording of the code ties up elected officials in more red tape than Gordon Brown's cassette collection. There have been examples of councillors being elected on the back of a single issue and then gagged citing the fact that they have a "predetermined position".
Many residents will be aware of the impending decision of the location for the rebuilding of Stanley Park High School. I have explained on every occasion that I am a Governor at the School and so have a favoured site where I would like to see the school rebuilt.
Councillors and residents had the opportunity at last week's Carshalton & Clockhouse Area Committee to contribute to the debate minuting their thoughts for the benefit of the Strategy Committee that would make the decision as to the location...That is, all councillors except me! I contribute to the project team for the rebuilding of the school so there is no doubt that I have a predetermined position. The Head of Legal Services gave me the only advice that she could; I not only couldn't contribute to the debate but had to leave the room while the matter was being discussed.
Since most of the time that was allocated to questions from the public was taken up by questions about the school, I sat in an empty room for the best part of an hour twiddling my thumbs whilst the most controversial subject to affect Carshalton in the last five years was discussed. I certainly have no argument about the advice given. Indeed, we both rolled our eyes when we realised that the situation would be different after the 3rd of May (after this decision will have been made) when the Code is changed.
As usual, my argument is with the Labour Government whose sticky fingers intrude on every aspect of our lives, in this case neutering the already limited effect that locally elected politicians can have in their own areas. It is local politicians that know best not some pontificating tubby from Westminster who is looking for his next promotion. I have long been a fan of localism as embodied by the group of MPs and politicians that developed the Direct Democracy agenda.