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Monday, 2 February 2009

An uncomfortable truth

When I went to the Council meeting on 22nd Jan, gracing the middle of the chamber were 50-ish Councillors, the Lord Mayor, and some Council officers and assorted hangers-on.

There was one guy sitting at the other end of my bench who left after hearing about the Council unearthing Roman remains in the basement of the Beaney - I assume he was an archeology fiend of some sort. There were two guys (spouses/partners/cabbies?) on the other side of the chamber who didn't seem to be paying much attention to anything. In other words, the public benches were all but empty. I'm told this is pretty well the norm.

Given that this is supposed to be the centre of our local democracy, this is not healthy.

I've always worked on the basis that if you don't vote in a General Election, you forfeit the right to bleat about whichever party becomes the Government. I've always voted, and have thoroughly enjoyed wailing and gnashing my teeth at each pitiful result. Members of Parliament are closely watched and extensively reported on - it takes very little effort to keep track of them, so I have grown lazy. Mea culpa.

MEPs and Councillors manage to fly over and under the radar, respectively. Until this Evil Land Grab popped up, I couldn't have named my Councillors, the Lord Mayor, or my MEP. (Just had to look up the last of those - turns out I've got 10, yes ten, MEPs. But I'm sharing them with several million other people.)

I freely admit, I've not been keeping an eye on CCC. But nor has anyone else, or not enough people. I have this awful dawning realisation that just voting isn't enough. It's not enough to make my mark on the voting slip and silently hope that everything-will-come-out-alright-in-the-end-somehow. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the Council (and as a result, all of us) would benefit hugely from more of the public having more of a say.

I say 'unfortunately' because this does imply effort, and I am a lazy sod. I've heard a lot of people complaining with good reason about CCC's high-handed treatment of Herne Bay. The catch is: if you don't raise your voice (somehow), they'll never hear you, let alone listen.

The Council would find it harder to act with such high-handed disregard if they could hear the tuts of disapproval, the world-weary sighs of disappointment, the bitter "I-told-you-so" chuckles, the mocking laughter, the raspberries of derision, and the howls of rage from the Mighty Herne Bay Public.

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