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Area board rulebook is out of order

(January 10, 2009)

THE RULEBOOK which will guide the work of the new area boards in Wiltshire is under discussion at the moment.

It has been renamed the ‘handbook’ and contains dozens of pages of often impenetrable local government speak.

We are told on the first page that the aim of the board is to ‘drive the development of resilient communities’ and there is something to be called the ‘prioritisation matrix’.

We are also told that the body will have to elect a chair person not a chairman.

“I cannot understand why a body wanting to be taken seriously would start by insisting on a chair person,” said former county councillor Steve Dancey.

“When I was at university, 30 odd years ago, only student unions and oddball societies had chair persons while the only ‘chair’ I ever got to meet was Professor of economics, Tony Thirlwall.

“When I was county councillor only the loony left brigade from the Socialist Republic of Swindon would refer to chair or chair person but now this encroaching PC nonsense is being forced down our throats in Warminster.

“Can you imagine a company like Cadbury having a chair person? Get real.”

Perhaps more worrying though is that the body will look to determine its success by measuring public satisfaction - giving officers interested in box-ticking exercises more power than councillors who might have a vision to do things differently.

Even more worrying is a section which refers to the police having a ‘business national intelligence model to determine priorities - this model can be adapted for use of the area boards’.

“Public satisfaction with the police has never been lower - although this has nothing to do with the performance of individual officers,” added Steve.

“It has to do with priorities and I would be aghast if we started taking advice from the police on this subject or started to use the same model to determine our priorities. God help if that happens.

“My view is that it is for would-be councillors to set out their stall in detail before the public at election time and if they are elected they have the mandate from the people to push that programme through.

“The handbook says the area boards need to rebuild interest and trust in local government.

“They have the potential to do that but not if they are seen as politically correct, jargon factories offering a sham democracy where elected members are told what to do by focus groups or following quasi-scientific surveys of public opinion.”
The next meeting of the Warminster area board takes place on Tuesday 13 January starting at 6.30pm in the Surestart centre. If you are going why not ask why the Warminster area board is getting much less money (£10k) than some other boards that have smaller populations.

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