I am perplexed.
Westminster is the home of those we elect to represent our views and to go to battle on issues their constituents believe to be important. In doing so they are usually vociferous and invariably take their positions to the media before entering the lobbies on our behalf.
Why is it then that the councillors we elect, for example to Arun District Council, if they have expressed a view in support of their constituents, are barred from voting on the subject?
Planning applications for the strategic sites in ADC spring to mind. To bar the ward councillors of a ward about to be hit with thousands of houses from voting on the planning applications, which pay little heed to the absence of local infrastructure, the flood risk and air pollution, is to disenfranchise the whole ward. If this council action is determined by their constitution, then it needs changing.
And another thing. Of the thousands of objections to the strategic sites lodged by the public against the various applications and the local plan, the leading objection is traffic congestion on the Bognor Regis/Chichester plain.
When the applications are studied by the various agencies, West Sussex County Council highways invariably has no objections.
This means that when considering the application in committee, councillors are informed by officers that they may not object on those grounds.
Well, of course, highways don’t object. They have no incentive to object since they benefit enormously from financial contributions from the developer.
Finally, I am outraged to hear a planning officer tell councillors when they are about to vote that they cannot object because it may result in a legal challenge by the developer and cost the council money. Tough. That is the price of democracy.
There is something deeply disturbing about the way democracy is delivered at the local level.