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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What is the mandate of our local politicians?

I wanted to explore what is the political mandate that is given to a local politician, especially Cornwall Councillors, when we elect them.

For example, there is this news story concerning Cllr Simon Rix (who is the Lib Dem PPC for Truro and Falmouth).

An elected Cornwall Councillor is not required to act according to the wishes of one of his local parish councillors. That is probably quite correct - epsecially as, more often than not, local issues are not clear cut and there is a wide range of opinion on the subject. However in this case should Cllr Rix have paid a greater regard to his local parish, given that, the weight of opinion was overwhelmingly in opposition to his own? Particularly as the decision in question was whether to reccommend further debate on an issue rather than have it settled once and for all.

Cllr Rix is listed as a Senior Consultant and an Account Director with Bellenden which describes its job as "to look ahead, alert you to issues that might impact your business and help you represent your interests to the government, stakeholders and the media." Companies that he has worked with include several energy companies, including Renewable UK.

Closer to home, in Illogan, the Illogan Parish Council recently voted unanimously (in a recorded vote) to oppose a development in Park Bottom. A development which would increase, at a stroke, the number of houses in Park Bottom by around 20%. Cllr Wilkins, a member of the planning committee, was not able to attend the highly charged meeting for personal reasons. However, he is on record (on many occasions) as being in support of the development. Cllr Wilkins believes that the opportunity for building 'affordable homes' in Park Bottom is too good to pass up - even though the proposed scheme does not even meet standards set out in the emerging Cornwall Local Plan. Despite his lone advocacy in the face of concerted opposition for the development, Cllr Wilkins has no intention of using his democratic mandate, such as it is, in favour of the development. It seems that his desire to help young people to stay in Illogan doesn't extend far enough to have the courage and conviction to actually vote in favour of the scheme at any point. Like Nick Clegg, you have to ask what is the point of Cllr Wilkins?

Edited Update:

A couple of questions:

Both Cllrs Rix and Wilkins faced united opposition to their opinion.
Should Cornwall Councillors pay more attention when their community is united against them?
Is it better to back your own opinion in the face of mass condemnation or is it better to be a serial abstainer?


  1. Stephen. You've got it totally 100% wrong about me. Most people realise we need to do much much more about global warming. My voters are not opposed to my opinion. They agree with it and they voted me in because of it. Why don't you check out how many people voted for those four parish councillors who oposed me: http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=33909&ward=Luxulyan%20Parish%20Council

  2. Hi Simon.

    A couple of things:

    1. There doesn't appear to have been an election for Luxulyan Parish Council according to the link you provided. Are you saying that the parish council has no democratic legitimacy because of this? Otherwise how can you compare your votes for Cornwall Council to any parish council election? They are two entirely different things.

    2. The news report said that the parish council voted unanimously - is this incorrect?

    3. As they parish council could only ask for the matter to go to committee couldn't you have recognised their concern but then used your mandate to speak in favour at the committee hearing?

    4. How do you know that the people who voted for you agreed with you on this issue? Was it in the public domain back in May 2013? I seem to remember the main thrust of Lib Dem election strategy was to talk about pot holes and libraries. I don't remember much about this issue in the Lib Dem campaign.


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