In April the Court of Common Council was presented with a petition signed by over 1,100 City residents declaring 'no confidence' in the City's standards regime.The key issue being that resident Councillors are not able to represent their constituents on matters which affect their constituents no less than themselves without obtaining ‘dispensations’ that are widely refused.
On May 24 a response from new chair of Standards Committee was published suggesting that residents were 'confused' - you can read it here.
Chairs of both Barbican Association and GLERA responded very strongly, as did Cllr Graeme Harrower - you can read their response here.
Consequently Cllr Mark Bostock submitted a request for general dispensation which was refused by the Dispensations Sub-Committee on 3 July.
Most disappointingly for residents, Cllr Mary Durcan, herself a Barbican resident and recent appointment to the Standards Committee, also voted to refuse the request despite having signed the petition herself. Earlier in June she declared her hope 'to influence the committee to take a more permissive view that is in line with the practice of other local authorities.’ In a follow up newsletter she quotes one resident: 'I am so GLAD you are on the Standards Committee. It is quite scandalous that it has until now deemed its role to silence the representatives of as many City residents as it can.' Many residents would now welcome an explanation from Cllr Durcan as it is difficult to see her voting action as anything but a betrayal.
Cllr Harrower who attended the meeting from the public gallery has subsequently written to all Councillors again stressing the anti-resident bias of the current policy. You can read it in full here along with Cllr Bostock's dispensation request.
It should be noted that three other resident Councillors submitted a request for general dispensation and have also been refused, including GLE resident, Cllr Sue Pearson.
“I was elected as a councillor to represent my fellow residents on matters that affect us. I now find that I am expected to seek permission continuously from this standards committee, effectively a third party, to do so. This situation is not acceptable.”
“Yet again the City Corporation, acting through three members of its standards committee, has tried to control how resident councillors (like me) act on behalf of their constituents. This simply isn’t democracy."
“The City Corporation must be unique among local authorities in its dismissive attitude towards its residents. This attitude is evidenced in many ways, including its “standards” regime being used to deny residents the same level of democratic representation as in other local authorities. The City Corporation is also unique in having most of its members elected by business votes - unnecessarily, because the absence of a business vote system has not prevented business from flourishing in Canary Wharf, or anywhere else in the UK or abroad. The question naturally arises as to whether a local authority that primarily serves private commercial interests (which have the means to represent themselves) at the expense of its residents (who, as anywhere, need effective representation from their councillors) should continue to have the powers of a public authority. The question isn’t new, but the answer is becoming overdue.”
City Matters 29 May 2019 (published online 24 June)
City AM 13 Dec 2018
City Matters 29 Nov 2018
City AM 27 Nov 2018
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