A look at the breakdown of charges on my recent Wiltshire Council tax bill shows that I am paying more each year for Marlborough Town Council than I am for Wiltshire Police or the county Fire and Rescue service – the latter two being essential professional community services. Yet at a time when the Council’s purpose is often questioned, they will neither have a mandate from the community nor will its members be democratically elected. Surely there must be some mistake?
By not having any kind of election, the community will be denied the opportunity of appraising our local representatives and showing confidence (or lack of it) in the Council itself. We get no opportunity to compliment the good work, prise out the deadwood and the new volunteers are prevented from gaining local endorsement from their wards. The new members’ enthusiasm and passion to contribute, despite the lack of democracy, should get our best wishes. They will need all their reserves of tenacity to succeed.
This is all against a background of poor performance for our money. Despite continuously significant precept increases over the past 10 years, the Town Council has lost its direction. Judging by recent extravagant expenditures, it appears also to have little grasp of value for money. There is no evidence of challenging the given norms about local government effectiveness, its structure or its ability to serve the community.
There’s a strong argument for scrapping the Town Council altogether and putting the Marlborough precept in places where the funds are really needed – like better community health care, for instance.
What we have in prospect is an unelected, state sponsored village hall committee that appears to do very little for the town (and most other village hall committees are run better because they have to self fund).
The lack of any manifesto or public mandate for the future Marlborough Town Council seriously undermines (yet further) what little credibility this council has.