Politics - we get what we pay for

Cllr Chris Ash
Cllr Chris Ash

I can’t start off this column without sharing sympathy with the victims of the two mass murders in the USA. Our hearts go out to those families affected, writes Chris Ash, Liberal Party member of Peterborough City Council.

Extremism is unacceptable and from whatever direction it comes from it has to be countered swiftly. Sadly, over the centuries there have been politicians and leaders who have incited hatred. A good leader must inspire and motivate citizens for the benefit of all. A bad and dangerous leader divides through hate, fear and resentment.

Those who have been elected to represent us at whatever level, be it a local committee, parish council, city council (so I must I guess include myself here ) and most importantly parliament, have a responsibility to represent people honestly openly and fairly, and abide by the laws of the land. Sometimes there are conflicts and it is no easy task particularly for those in high office .

However, it does seem from the continued debacle over Brexit our key policy makers in Westminster have failed us and shown they are still really not up to the job – when will they ever learn?

I guess we get what we pay for. It will be an eyebrow- raiser for me to say change is long overdue. We deserve a parliamentary system suited to the 21st century, not the 18th . That means in my book increased representation at lower level and fewer and better paid MPs, much better paid, in fact.

When you think of it, many middle managers with less responsibilities are getting the same pay as an MP. MPs can supplement their income, and many do, through allowances and in the employ of organisations. That in my book can’t be right . We do need to be sure that our MPs do not have a conflict of interest and they get paid for representing us, the voters. That, I reckon is what the job is all about .

I do believe that we need more bottom-up decision making not top-down, unfortunately we have a highly centralised system .

So, people will say in a democracy the majority decision is all and that is the end of it, but in many ways that can take us close to dictatorship . How so ?

So let’s look at a couple of scenarios The first is somewhat hypothetical. Local people want new facilities and changes in a local park area . Everyone living nearby thinks it’s a great idea – so asking for those changes would be reasonable. It would then be incumbent on the policymakers to investigate the benefits and the pitfalls, and if it is just a few unhappy killjoys, or perhaps it will cause a few significant problems which may or may not be surmountable, which in the end might mean the project should not go ahead even if the majority want it.

However, things are rarely that simple. Here, local parks are funded and maintained by the city council - it is responsible for all parks and money spent in one place means there is nothing to spend on other wanted projects, and then we have to start prioritising .

Now, if there is a community or parish council with their own funding raised by local people then the decision should stay local.

The real trouble comes when projects are paid out of national government funds, and the council has to bid against other councils . The best put together bid wins , it can mean that councils with limited funds available to put bids together (and it is not a cheap exercise ) lose out .

Now, let’s go with another example and a highly controversial and very real one. I recently received a letter from a resident concerned about 5G and lists a lot of reasons to show that 5G is extremely harmful and therefore transmission should stop, and the council should take action. There will on the other hand be people who are not convinced by the scientists who demonstrate the harm, but convinced by those who say that 5G is just what we need to be sure that we can meet the demands of modern life.

Both those views are without doubt genuinely held by a lot of people, each latching on to one aspect of the information put before them. What I think we do need is in this, and many other issues, is proper trusted research that investigates these kinds of issues.

Councils are controlled by national decisions and laws, and I guess some constancy is needed, but local concerns should, I think, be considered, but are they?

If we as a council want Peterborough to be 5G free we will without doubt have to justify that to decision to a government department, which could well overrule such a decision. One thing I know for sure, is that whichever way it goes, there will be a large number of people who are not happy - you can’t win!