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Letter: It Is About Time Some Conservatives Forgot Party Politics

Published on: 20 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2015

No coalition rosettes politicsFrom Pauline Searle

Lib Dem borough councillor for Stoughton

I very much agree with Adrian Atkinson’s comment made in response to Julia McShane’s letter: Councillor Was Unaware She Had Been Nominated For Community Centre Committee.

It is about time some Conservative councillors forgot party politics, especially when it comes to representation on external organisations.

I have been a councillor for 16 years and over those years I cannot ever remember a time when politics came into the selection of GBC representatives.

In my case I had been the GBC Trustee on Disability Challenges for 12 years. I have done the training required and attended as many meeting as possible.

The charity asked for me to continue, but the Conservatives decided to put one of their members forward instead and, as with Cllrs Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough) and Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke), when it came to the vote we were not elected.

I very much look forward to the council taking forward the amendment to look at the process of making these appointments and engaging with the organisations for their thought and comments.

Let’s remember why we are on these bodies: “To ensure that the council maintains and develops its relationship with key local groups and other external organisations in the best interest of local people.”

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Responses to Letter: It Is About Time Some Conservatives Forgot Party Politics

  1. Angela Gunning Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Cllr Searle is right – and can I quote from GBC’s own ‘Protocol on Appointments to external organisations’. On page 5-33 of the Constitution, in paras 20 and 21 it says, respectively:

    “…their [ie the Cllr] role is to contribute to the decision-making of the other organisation, not to represent the Council in discussions or negotiations with that organisation”


    “…such persons [ie Cllrs] must not be regarded as delegates of the council, simply mandated to pursue the Council ‘line’. Rather they must exercise independent judgement when deciding issues.”

    Obviously nothing there about party politics or portfolios etc.

    I look forward to examination at a scrutiny committee about how this whole process of nomination and selection to external organisations is handled.

    Angela Gunning is the Labour borough councillor for Stoke.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    So the Conservative group has not followed the council’s constitution. Are we surprised?

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    This comment written in Cllr Spooner’s capacity as deputy group leader of the Conservative group at GBC.

    On what basis has the Conservative group not followed the council’s position? Mr Paton’s claim is simply not true.

    He would be correct if the constitution stated that opposition parties should be placed on every external body that they wish to be on, no matter how competent or professional the majority party nomination/s may be. But the constitution does not say that.

    In relation to Cllr Searle, I discussed the situation with the leader of the Lib Dem group and I explained that a new Conservative councillor had the attributes and personal experience to support nomination in her own right.

    We then both discussed the opportunity for Cllr Searle to be appointed directly by the organisation, given her interest and experience.

    I also (through the council) approached the organisation to see if they would accept two rather than one councillor appointment but they declined.

    I was assured that Cllr Searle would be considered as a trustee in her own right at a meeting of the organisation’s trustees in September, and hence a solution was forthcoming that enabled a new councillor with extensive personal experience to be appointed and the long serving Cllr Searle to also be retained.

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    July 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I have made an inference based on Cllr Gunning’s citation of the council’s constitution.
    Cllr Gunning gives all the detail required. Just because the constitution does not say that something cannot be done does not mean that it is within the spirit of the rules for the thing to be done.

    In this case, it appears that the minority parties’ candidates were as well if not better qualified than any Conservatives. And since the appointments are not supposed to be political why does Mr Spooner wish to pack these bodies with Conservatives?

    What the rules say and the way they are applied in Guildford is quite interesting. The executive head of governance has written this for example:

    “There is no positive duty on the council to ensure that the Local Code of Practice is complied with on a case by case basis. It is a framework for conduct of members and officers to adhere across the range of work of a local planning authority but the way in which members do so is a matter for each of them.”

    Since the code does not actually say that it should be enforced is it okay not to enforce it then? And since the constitution does not say that all council representatives cannot be drawn from the majority party then it is just fine to exclude as many minority candidates – even better qualified ones?

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