Vicki Macleod for Weybridge in the Surrey Elections 4th May 2017

On Thursday 4th May, you have a  chance to elect a new councillor to represent Weybridge on Surrey County Council.

Your local Liberal Democrat candidate is long term Weybridge resident Vicki Macleod.

You may know Vicki from her work in our local community, perhaps from her five years chairing the Friends of The Weybridge Centre charity. or as a school governor.

Vicki‘s priority is to give Weybridge a stronger voice for better delivery of the services local people need, including:

  • Better maintained and safer local roads and pavements
  • Local school places for Weybridge children
  • Responsible budget management by Surrey County Council

Many people see Surrey County Council as remote and inefficient with its history of mismanagement. Vicki will work with other councillors to put pressure on the administration for more effective financial management and for budgets that reflect local needs.  Her longer term aim is to see some of the services currently run by Surrey brought into local Elmbridge control.

Read more at elmbridgelibdems.org.uk

 

Gerrymandering

This morning’s discussion at the Cafe One in Baker Street could not help but include the recent inauguration of the American President.

I was surprised, perhaps I should not have been, how unaware British people appear to be regarding the nature of American democracy.  Unlike in Europe, elections in America are often heavily manipulated.  In Europe, where most states have proportional representation, manipulation is almost impossible.  In England, unlike the rest of Britain, we almost exclusively use the first-past-the-post election method and so manipulation is possible but guarded against by the use of an arms-length boundary commission.   Not so in America. The lower house of the America parliament has constituencies and each one elects one member.  To protect the incumbent the political parties change the make-up of the electorate.  If a neighbourhood votes the “wrong” way it is excluded from the constituency and if it votes the “right” way it is included. Over time this produces constituencies with bizarre shapes. The example below. Illinois district 4, shows a constituency that almost entirely surrounds another one.

In some American states the situation is so bad that the state could not pass the basic democratic conditions required to join the European Union.  North Carolina below.

This gerrymandering does not affect the election of the America President.  However, other methods are used instead.  Collectively they are know as voter suppression.  The main types of voter suppression are:

  • Spurious removal of voters from the electoral role
  • Unequal spread of polling stations – poorer areas have fewer stations
  • Misinformation for postal voting – making voters miss deadlines
  • Unequal polling station opening times
  • Unequal voter identification techniques – requiring a driving licence
  • Banning convicted criminals for life
  • Arduous voting registration requirements

Elmbridge staff put a great effort in trying to get people on to the electoral role.  In America there are many organisations that help people to get registered.  However, some American organisations do their best to make sure people never get registered or once there try and remove them.

Some American academics have suggested that the total effect of voter suppression in the recent presidential election was sufficient to change the result in the electoral college.

What are your priorities for Elmbridge?

When the new Liberal Democrat / Residents’ coalition became Elmbridge borough’s administration we set four tasks for our first year – all of which are on target.

 

The municipal year begins in May and in readiness we want to engage with all residents in developing our priorities for next year and beyond.

As part of that ongoing communication we have arranged a meeting for you to share your views and ask questions about key issues for your borough.

‘Prospects and Priorities’ is a public meeting to be held on Wednesday, 18 January at the Civic Centre in Esher.  Elmbridge councillors and staff will be available to discuss the current concerns of residents, from planning to recycling, affordable housing to traffic management. Make sure you arrive early for the drop-in session from 6-7pm, when you can chat informally with councillors and officers, after which, at 7pm, there will be a presentation and question and answer session with Councillor Stuart Selleck, Leader of Elmbridge Borough.

Registration for the presentation part of the evening is advisable because there is a limit to the seating capacity. Email  or call 01372 474 376

Planning Consultation

Your chance to see and shape the next twenty years of planning in Elmbridge

At 7pm, Tuesday, 10 January in the Library building on the first floor

Weybridge will see the first of six public exhibitions outlining the borough’s proposals for providing more affordable and social housing.  This is in response to the national government’s call for local government to produce proposals for meeting housing needs in their areas.

Key documents will be available in hard copy and officers and councillors will be there to talk with you about the proposals.  Key features for residents to consider are around what happens to existing Green Belt boundaries.

The public consultation on these proposals closes on 10 February.

This is the first of several public consultation meetings, so if you cannot make it tonight, there are others you can attend.  Dates and venues to follow.

Coalition Formed

Following the recent elections in Elmbridge the Conservatives lost control.  The only borough in the country for that to happen – although the Conservative Party also lost Worcester City.

With 22 councillors and just short of the 25 required, it was entirely possible for the Conservative Party to run Elmbridge as a minority administration.  Similarly, with 19 councillors it was possible for the Residents’ Parties to run it too.  The Conservatives could govern as long as the Liberal Democrats abstained when votes came to the full council and the Residents could given as long as the Liberal Democrats on voted with them.  Whilst this could undoubtedly work – and a number of boroughs operate this way across the country – the Liberal Democrat Party considered that a coalition with a clear programme would be beneficial.

When a similar situation occurred at the national level in 2010 the Liberal Democrats had only the one option – join or not with the Conservatives but here in Elmbridge the Lib Dems could theoretically work with either party.

As the Conservatives had lost 11 councillors and the Liberal Democrats and Residents had held the same numbers we felt that the people were looking for a change so we decided to open discussions with the Residents’ Parties with a joint programme.

Coalition Numbers

Our aim is to achieve further improvements in services to residents of the borough; in particular, over the coming year, we will be looking to:

  • introduce free parking on Saturdays in the borough car parks, as appropriate.
  • review planning enforcement,
  • undertake a number of policy reviews in key areas to underpin future decision making.
  • review the working of the Grounds Maintenance Contract, and
  • ensure a smooth introduction of the new Joint Waste Management Contract, start date June 2017.

These key areas would fall under the responsibility of various cabinet members, notably: highways and transport (parking); planning services (enforcement); leisure and culture (grounds maintenance); and, environment (waste management).

The cabinet members are as follows:

Coalition Cabinet

Although the focus is on the four main concerns the reviews will be used to develop further action in due course.

Euro Debate

Philip HammondThe British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond who is, of course, our MP is speaking on the referendum at 7:30 on Wednesday, 15 June at Manby Lodge School, Princes Road.

It is an open, non-party political meeting so everyone is welcome.  It is anticipated that the the meeting will last 60-90 minutes.

Is Europe more democratic than Britain?
What’s a trade deal compared to the single market?
Who gets our taxes?

European Democracy

european-union-flag-1024x7681Brexiters have a constant refrain that we need our democracy back.  It is true that democracy means different things to different people but I would contend that there is a general consensus that for a place to be democratic its laws must be passed by a representative body and that those representatives must be replaceable at elections.

Democracy
Is the European Union democratic?  No European law can be passed without the consent of the European parliament. The lower house of that parliament is elected directly by the people of Europe.  Indeed it is more representative of the European people than the British government is in representing the British.  Members of the upper house of Europe are appointed by their respective governments – not as democratic as it should be – but better than the British upper house of Lords which is simply appointed by our Prime Minister alongside people who got there simply by birth.  So Europe is democratic.

Of course the more astute Brexiters might well say that okay Europe is democratic but we  British are out-voted all the time by the other Europeans because there are 64m of us and 444m of them.  This is true.  However, Britain votes on the winning side 87% of the time – not 100% – that is far greater than your chance of electing the government of your choice in Britain which currently is stands at 37% (or 24% depending on your point of view).  Britain has greater sway in Europe than you do in electing your British government.  In fact, over twice the sway – pretty good odds if you ask me.

Brexiters say – but we want 100% and 87% is not good enough.  Hang on – who is the we? Here in Elmbridge we recently voted for a new administration which is not Conservative. Yet we are still governed by a Conservative administration in Surrey.  Do the people of Elmbridge suddenly claim that we fear being swamped by the rest of Surrey?  Surrey has continually elected Conservative administrations for over century yet Britain has, on many occasion, been run by the Labour party.  Does Surrey aim for Sexit?  Leaving because you do not like the wider view is a possible decision.  But if we are intent to apply this idea in relation to Britain and Europe why not equally apply to England and Britain or Surrey and England or Elmbridge and Surrey?  Would we, the people of Elmbridge, leave Britain because we are often outvoted by the rest of the island? Of course not.  There is no consistency to it – the “we” argument does not cut it.

Getting rid of the Government
Except in the recent Elmbridge elections we can only vote for a third of the councillors each year.  It can take a number of years to change administrations. In some ways this is a good thing because the public mood at the time of a particular election would not overly affect the administration.  In any case there is a debate to be had.  Surrey has a general election every four years, Britain and Europe every five years.

Just as the people of Surrey can remove their government  – though choose not to – the people of Britain and the people of Europe can get rid of theirs.  In 2014 Europeans had the chance of removing the majority administration but did not do so.  In 2015 the British had a chance to change their government and chose to do so.  It’s up to the people.

In Europe the Conservative Party (74 MPs) and UKIP (46 MPs) are in opposition and the Labour party (190 MPs) and the Liberal Party (70 MPs) are in government.  Perhaps that’s why UKIP and so many British Conservative MPs want to leave.  Who knows?

Elmbridge Result

For Weybridge Riverside Result

Last Thursday, 118 people stood for election to Elmbridge’s council – representing twelve parties (there was also one independent).  A number were councillors already.  Only 48 could be elected.  The previous council was represented in the following way.

2015 EBC CouncillorsFollowing the elections last Thursday the result is as follows:2016 EBC CouncillorsAs the new council has 12 fewer councillors, one would expect a general of loss of seats for all parties.  Indeed whilst the Conservative party lost the most at 11 seats (10 percentage points loss), the Molesey party (1 percentage point loss) and  the Thames Ditton party lost one seat each.  Hinchley Wood (1 percentage point gain) and St George’s Hill party held steady.  The Esher and Hersham parties gained one seat each (2 percentage point gain).  Last there was one independent now there are none.  The Greens, Labour and UKIP did not gain a single seat and were not close to doing so anywhere in the borough. Labour Oddly enough despite holding their seven seats the Liberal Democrats made the biggest proportional gain – 3 percentage points.

As the Conservative party has lost overall control of Elmbridge the full council will have to come to a decision as to who should form the government of Elmbridge.