Thursday, 6 December 2012

LSE Politics Professor George Jones "dysfunctional"


Prof Jones viewed a webcast of Thanet District Council's full meeting and declared it 'dysfunctional'. In doing so, Prof Jones revealed his deep ignorance of how local government in England operates. It worries me greatly that such dysfunction is teaching students at the London School of Economics & Political Science.

It may be that Thanet Council is a mess but what Prof Jones doesn't seem to appreciate is that the full council meeting is connected to decision-making at the Council only by taking place in the same building. The power - and this is what the Local Government Act 2000 set out - rests with (in Thanet's case) a single Party 'cabinet'. Full council cannot overturn decisions of that body except in a very few areas defined in the Act.

So what Prof Jones viewed was playtime for politicians and, inevitably, it boils down to point scoring, vengeance and grandstanding. Maybe they should be debating "matters that are really matters of public interest" but this would give the erroneous impression that the Council meeting actually has any power to order the council's policies.

So, rather than beating up Thanet Council, Prof Jones should be hanging his head in shame at his total ignorance. Maybe he should read the 200 Act, check out the constitution of Thanet Council and then suggest that - just maybe - the problem lies with the system Blair imposed on councils because we were "out of date".

Full council meetings have just two substantive powers - to appoint a council leader once every four years and to agree the council tax. That's it - everything else is down to that leader we appointed.


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