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The Dragon Says: Democracy Dies in Darkness

Published on: 21 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 6 Dec, 2021

“Democracy dies in darkness.” This is the strapline of the Washington Post. Naturally, when we read such mottos we think of national governments and high-level politics but it applies equally to the lowest levels of democracies where often the ambient light is the dimmest, especially in these days of poorly-resourced local news reporting.

The failure of Ash Parish Council to explain why two of its councillors who have moved two counties away and who have not, apparently, attended a meeting in person for six months, as required, can continue in their positions, is a disgrace.

The refusal by the politically-motivated council’s chairman to offer an explanation could be expected. He has shown contempt for The Dragon and our readers since the light has been shone on Ash Parish Council. Perhaps he has put our questions in the same “vexatious” category he uses for residents’ questions he considers not worthy of a proper response.

He told The Dragon, “You are incorrect in your reading of S85 LGA [Local Government Act] 1972, as you will find out if/when you make a report!!” Well, we published our report on Monday (November 15) and we are still awaiting a proper answer.

But the parish clerk should be above politics. He has a responsibility to advise the council and help ensure it is compliant with the relevant law. He should also observe the Nolan Principles including, in this instance, the principles of Openness and Accountability. His failure to respond to our request for an explanation before he went on a week’s leave could be deemed serious if there was any effective oversight of parish councils.

Perhaps there is some obscure reason or technical loophole, of which we have yet to be informed, which allows the two councillors to remain in post. If there is, why not say so?

But as one reader commented this week, regardless of the rules, how can someone “living 60 miles away from Ash Vale [be] able to keep up to date with what’s happening in the area and how local people are being affected by local problems and issues?”

The people of Ash deserve much better but we often get the government we deserve.

Apart from Cllr Carla Morson, elected in a by-election, all the Ash parish councillors, unusually at parish level all declared Conservatives, were appointed following an uncontested election in 2019. No one else stood.

Hopefully, enough people in the Parish of Ash will wake up to the situation and demand improvement. They could start by attending the December 13 parish council meeting and asking their own questions.

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test One Response to The Dragon Says: Democracy Dies in Darkness

  1. Sue Hackman Reply

    November 24, 2021 at 3:16 pm

    Absence is contempt. I count three resignations required. I hope the people of Ash will remember which parties have demonstrated commitment at the next elections.

    Sue Hackman is a Labour Party spokesperson

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