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Board of Governors Nomination - Alix Martin

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  • Hi Alix, welcome to the Party and good luck in the Board election!

    FWIW, I disagree with Chesha.

    Our constitution doesn't say anything about external elections. If Alix wants to officially become a Pirate parish councillor then all she needs to do is get the permission of our nominations officer who wouldn't, I'm sure, make a decision without consulting the NEC. The rule about branch/NEC approval is just something imposed by the NEC on the party and not in the constitution.

    The issue around it being a parish council also complicates the issue, given how posts are filled.

    I certainly wouldn't consider the matter bringing the party into disrepute if I were re-elected to the Board. In fact I wholeheartedly encourage it!
  • My view is that Pirate candidates (especially at the level of local government) should not stand as party candidates at all, but as citizen advocates who pledge to do two things: hack the systems of decision-making and rewrite the systems’ code to make them more transparent and participatory; and act as their constituency’s delegate or proxy in the Council chamber and committees rather than as a partisan representative hell-bent on promoting his/her party’s policies.

    As well as working within the system to change the system, an elected Pirate should also use participatory techniques and technologies to refer issues that affect them back down to his/her constituents for decision-making, and then advocate that decision in Council deliberations.

    I short, I think Pirates in elected positions should ‘walk-the-walk’ rather than just ‘talk-the-talk’ of Pirate politics, and enact Pirate values and principles in his/her own practice as a councillor and not just bang on about them in Council chambers. In this way we might change by example people’s democratic expectations of their local government, which would be a more game-changing way of realising our Pirate vision than would simply playing the existing game under the Pirate brand.

    (BTW: my local council now has a Solidarity elected member, following the defection of a Scottish Nationalist Party councillor to Tommy Sheridan's party. No problem there.)
  • edited June 2015
    Thanks Andrew and I completely agree with you. Advocating Pirate Politics directly at Parish level is not worth much really. Its walking the walk that matters.

    The issues we deal with are grass cutting, dog poo, the rents for parish lots, planning, giving grants to community groups. However, because we are a level of government, as the Chair of the Council I have got us involved in representing the Parish with issues dealt with by the District and County Council - like schools, street lights, buses, highways etc. Some people have complained, both residents and council officers that these have nothing to do with the Parish, however, I have successfully got all to agree that it is very much in the community interested that the Parish Council be involved. The Parish Council has little power in it's own right, however as a lobbying group for the entire community it can achieve some serious changes. Which we have managed. I won't hijack this thread to tell the issues but survice to say we have achieved a few successes. Consequently the council officers/MP/and NHS Trusts now take real care in what the try to implement in this Parish and know that if we don't like it we will fill the Town Hall with 400+ people. Out of a electorate of 1100 and a whole community of 2100 this is pretty massive!!

    A current issue is we have the travellers and gypsies come thru Alston at this year to attend the Appleby Horse Fair. There are several very focal people who don't want them here, and the "bad lads" in the community often take the opportunity when the travellers are here to do a bit of theft - knowing the travellers will be blamed! Consequently every year there is a call to have them stopped coming thru. Obviously my personal opinion is that they should be free to travel and stay over night on their way and consequently I have tried now to make sure it all goes off without incident. It never does!!! So, I have put to the Council that we have a residents vote. 1)Are you happy with the travellers coming thru? 2) Do you want to ban the travellers? Or 3) I don't mind either way. I suspect that most will say 3 - don't mind. A vote has never been done here before!

    Ideally I would like to get software to be able to ask all residents about all decisions that we make. But I haven't got there yet. Nor at the moment would the Council spend any money on it. They are traditionally very mean!!!

    Another "hack" that has been achieved is that the Council has to adopt and abide by it's Standing Orders. We have refused to take on board the new ones that came in with the Tories and the new communities act and decided to stay with our own. The main reason being is we have kept in that a Vote of No Confidence can be called on the Chair. Completely fits with Pirate code I think!!

    andrew mccallum wrote....
    pledge to do two things: hack the systems of decision-making and rewrite the systems’ code to make them more transparent and participatory; and act as their constituency’s delegate or proxy in the Council chamber and committees rather than as a partisan representative hell-bent on promoting his/her party’s policies.
    I think I have been already doing this and more than happy to pledge it. Pirate or not!!!

    (BTW officially the Chair is always called Chairman - so you can imagine my response to that lol).
  • Good on you, Alix! Have you heard of Independents for Frome? http://iffrome.org.uk ? It's a citizens group which has gotten itself elected as the ruling 'party' on Frome town council and has done sterling work in making it more accessible, participatory and effective. The 'leader' of the movement (quote: 'Every time I try to tell them what to do, they tell me to "Fuck off!".'), Peter MacFadyen has also written a great little book called 'Flatpack Democracy', which (as well as telling the story of what happened in Frome) is a kind of DIY democracy 'instruction manual' for taking political power at a local level and then using it to enable people to have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. You can get it from www.eco-logicbooks.com

    Anyway, I like the cut of your jib, ma'am! Give 'em hell!
  • edited June 2015
    @andrewmccallum lmao!! thank you! And I'll look that up!!
  • Ive sent the link and the book info to the District and County Councillors here who are independents!! And bought the book myself. Thanks!!
  • edited June 2015
    The problem in Scotland is that our community councils have so few decision-making powers and responsibilities that being a community councillor is viewed as something of a sinecure; an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility or active work. Consequently, there is little incentive for people to get involved with them, other than the local kudos it brings. For what is the point? Community councils can't actually DO anything. Officially, they exist only to 'bridge the gap between local authority council areas (e.g. Scottish Borders) and local communities within those council areas (e.g. Skirling), and help to make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the communities they represent'. They are not seen as part of local government.

    A few years ago, the Scottish government established a short-life working group to look at ways to build the resilience and capacity of community councils, but only in order to strengthen their existing limited role as voices for their communities. This working group made several recommendations, including the need for modern methods of communication to make community councils more inclusive and representative of the communities they serve, and the need for local authority council areas' information and support for community councils to be more publicly available.

    The main outcome of the exercise has been the development of a Scottish government community council website, which went live in November 2014, is to raise awareness of community councils among the general public and to provide a digital source of information for community councillors to help them in their work.

    But still no real decision-making powers.

    I would like to see more power (i.e. budget) and responsibility for community issues being devolved from local authorities to community councils in Scotland. I would like to see them have primary responsibility for prioritising community needs (planning) and primary responsibility for meeting those needs (service design and delivery), with local authorities having only a subsidiary role in supporting community initiatives. I would also like to see community councils becoming more transparent, participatory (not just representative) and inclusive; but making them more transparent, representative and inclusive (which is as far as the Scottish government's proposals go) is not by itself enough to engage local people in the governance of their communities. They also have to have some socially productive function; some responsibility and active work to do. Otherwise, what's the point in getting involved with them?

    Maybe this is something Pirates could be campaigning on.
  • I absolutely agree, Drowz0r. Much more transparency and fairness is needed at all levels. As far as Parish Councils are concerned, often the councillors don't know what is required of them - they are generally just local folk who want to help their communities. Often they get accused of secret meetings when actually its not about secret it just that they don't publicise their decisions (nor consult before making those decisions.) Often then what happens is they are accused of secrecy.

    Also I not saying that some councillors don't have vested interests, because some certainly do and only go on councils to feather their own nest, but the majority don't get anything out of it, except grief!!! In the past our council has been accused of being corrupt, which just makes me laugh really. We get zero expenses, no allowance and have to pay ourselves to attend meetings. So not sure how we could be corrupt.

    Sometimes we are accused of giving work to our friends. Again this is just rubbish as we have a formal procurement process. Generally it is just ill informed people mouthing off.

    However for me that brings up a real issue. We as the council must take every step to ensure that people are informed about our processes and procurements. Starting to use Facebook has helped us get across to the electorate what we are doing and it has been really good for including people and for getting people more involved.
  • Andrew: I have a good friend who is Chair of the Community Council in St Johns Town of Dalry in Dumfries and Galloway and he says the same things.

    I think there are very big differences in English Councils and Scottish one (Don't know about Wales)

    The main 2 are about money and power. We do get to raise a "precept" via the council tax, which brings us in about £30,000 a year. As you say Community Councils get zero money. We use the money for a Parish Clerk, looking after public spaces, giving donations to community groups and more. With the austerity cuts we have been asked by both the District and the County Councils to take on more services. For instance we have been asked to raise another £20,000 to subsidise the buses. As a Council we have currently refused to do that. Why should people have to double their council tax bill to pay for a service that the County should be providing, is the argument. (Im not saying I agree here btw). And there would also be the issue of who would run it, administer it. NO money was suggested for the people who would do that and the expectation would be that it would , once again, be run by volunteers.

    With the new Communities Bill for England we are able to have more power (don't ask me what yet, I haven't understood) as we are now an elected council having gone thru a election process. And also we could work towards becoming a Quality Council, which again would give us more power.

    Personally I would like to bring back all services into local control, rather than being controlled from somewhere 50 miles away, but that would take a huge undertaking.

    We are working on it!!!
  • Well hey, guys. We have covered a lot of ground here on this thread!! Nomination criteria, gender issues, elections, Parish Councils, Community Councils, and more!!!

    I still need a seconder tho. Any offers? Or are you ALL already nominating someone else?
  • I'd second you, Alix, but I can't.
  • I know that Andrew and thanks!! Interesting isn't it!! :)
  • I will second your nomination for the board of governors, Alix. If I need to do anything other than post this declaration, would George or someone please let me know.
  • Thanks SO much Dan!!
  • Good points, David.

    I’m coming at this from a direct democracy angle.
    Direct democracy has to start at a community level, where ‘government’ is more accessible to most people. If people are more empowered to participate at the level of community politics, the experience will further empower them to participate at county and regional levels, which will in turn empower them still further to participate at national level. It’s about making politics and government more participatory from the bottom up, which is how it has to happen because (as the cynic in me believes) no ‘higher’ level of government is going to voluntarily empower ‘lower’ levels to its own diminishment. It’s not about waiting for councils to be ‘granted’ bigger, better or more devolved powers in the future; the Pirate Party should be in there, at those levels of government, actively campaigning for those powers for local people.

    It’s also about localism – ensuring that local decisions should be made as far as possible, not by remote bureaucrats, but by the communities those decisions affect.

    Campaigning at community level to increase participation (and all that this entails in terms of increased transparency, more e-democracy, crowdsourcing of local planning and policies), and for greater devolution of power and responsibility for decision-making to local communities, seems an effective way of translating Pirate ideals into action.

    Local campaigning and participation in local politics also raises the Pirate Party’s profile, helps to build its credibility with the electorate as a serious alternative when it comes to elections to ‘higher’ levels of government, and cultivates a grassroots support. It’s also good political training for Pirates who may graduate to standing as candidates in parliamentary elections. This is how other ‘small’ parties like the Greens, Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP, etc. built their political capacity in their early days. I think the Pirate Party needs to do the same and build its support from the bottom up.
  • The Lib Dems did really well in the 2010 elections because they already had lots of local councillors in place. UKIP is certainly following their lead and I agree. I think Pirates should do the same.

    I seriously would recommend that you check out your local parish or town council and see who is on it, are there any spare seats and if not could you be notified as soon as there is a vacancy for co-option!
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