Thursday, 12 March 2009

Electoral reform: Policy #6 or Who are these people, Hazel and Gus, and what are they doing exactly?

Politics should be representing and safeguarding the public and providing fair and open debate. Too much now is simply funding the political parties that are already well-funded by the State – or public already.

And covering over failure and incompetence. In the name of ther Party Machine.

A return to early Nineteenth century politics of the affluent and well-educated excluding the majority. With the Party Machine, badly, substituting for the affluent and well-educated.

After 100 years Labour has now achieved its aims and lost its way. The Tories are still trying to recover from the radicalism of the Thatcherite era and Nasty Party policies. The LibDems do a bit of everything.

The Civil Service is overpaid, ineffective and slow. The Quangos and Civil Service expansion or the Serco-isation of the civil service are a symbol of this failure.

The purpose of a small and efficient civil service providing social policies for the public and scrutinised by the public’s elected officials has been lost.

Here’s the reforms I will implement as an Independent MP:

1. Fixed election dates: for national and local elections: the disgrace of any Prime Minister especially an Unelected Prime Minister such as Gordon Brown choosing the date of his own election is absurd. The American system of fixed 4 year terms is far better.

2. Fixed terms: I will serve 1 term as an MP. Possibly 2 terms if I can stand the stench of Westminster. But then no more. A 21st century politician should be elected with a job to do, do it (or not) and then go. Rather than the dead wood we see in Kent clogging up the system. 8 years is enough. Then no more.

The abuse of co-opted candidates ie seats "elected" with no opposition candidate, should be left unfilled to indicate a failure of democracy.

Similarly electoral ballots should carry “none of the above” as an opt-out to improve democracy.

3. Manifestos: too many politicians are of the “we’ll reduce crime, working for a better world" flannel – who isn’t. That’s not policy. It’s a wish-list. Manifestos should be produced in detail 6 months before an election or the candidate is withdrawn. Margate’s dead wood Tories have never produced a manifesto. Labour’s Ramsgate party produce bland generalities. Steve and Laura remain silent.

4. MP and Councillor candidacies: a presumption should be for local and single-job candidates: the abuse of Laura Sandys and Mark Nottingham parachuting in or wearing several Party hats is no good for local people representing their local interests. Or democracy.

5. Electoral boundaries: a greasy little secret of the parties to indulge in a spot of gerrymandering eg splitting Margate in two. Boundary changes need to be listed on the Council and MP and MEP websites as a standard item. Fixed elections will remove the need for many changes.

6. Age/Gender: I will consider suggestion to reduce the number of very senior OAP’s and men disproportionately filling council and civil service positions - see point 13. As well as an education/exam - similar to the Citizenship exam - aspect to council and other positions as good practice on the job roles.

7. Finances; civil service salaries and pensions are too high at the senior level. MP (and Lords)salaries need to be evaluated by an independent body: probably rolled into the Electoral and Boundary Commission with the Standards Board. Possibly the Audit Commission too. As a “Super-Oversight” body.

8. FOI: replaced by the stricter EIR – and a “Scores on the Doors” for each Civil Service Dept. The days of switching job titles but not roles needs to end. A full detail of headcount, salary, expenses, major - Serco - contracts and so on for each department published on websites and libraries will allow bettter and easier scrutiny of performance.

9. Quangos: see 5. And double it: detail the elected representative accountability eg a Minister or Westminster civil servant. All Quangos listed in the Transparency section of the 34 County authorities with "Scores on the Doors" for clarity. Public funding is simply being spent on civil service jobs not end-funding or delivery.

10. KCC: 72% of all council tax goes to this massive organisation: the County’s largest employer. The Budget Book should be published quarterly. £110M in bank charges for handling Government and Council Tax money is absurd.

The KCC-isation of the economy with 40% in the public sector and pseudo-independent quangos needs to end. And all pseudo-independent quangos allocated and itemised under the County budget for clarity. Along with Police and District budgets and increases and shareholdings rather than the current piecemeal approach.

I support much of what KCC does but the failure of such deprivation and incompetence at TDC etc is a stain on their record. Faster action for improvement is required as an example to the UK and Europe.

The County and the 9 UK Euroregions are the right structure outside London but greater cohesion and clarity and effectiveness is required. This being the case I see little need for GOSE or other regional assemblies except for Wales and Scotland.

Greater clarity of MEP roles is required for even greater transparency at the EU.

11. IT transparency: TDC IT dept is already trying the age-old trick of transparency by convoluted IT systems. Simple Word and Excel document swill be required to be listed for citizens to compare and scrutinise. I will call on the Gang of Four before they leave office to provide a “Civil Service Cheat Sheet” of tricks and duplicity, such as faked customer complaint records, for publication - along with “TDC: 35 Years of Failure 1974-2009” as a guide to local government incompetence.

Payment of pensions will require disclosure and compliance. Civil service pensions should be rationalised and reduced. Too high. For underperformance.

12. MP’s: do we not need fewer of them? And with fixed terms. And as MP I will go further than FOI/EIR and detail all my salary, expenses etc: with receipts available for inspection. And I will produce an online diary of meetings and/or timesheets ensuring scrutiny of lobbyists and expenses. And I will produce an “MP Annual Report” of work done and work to do each 12 months. I call on Steve and Laura and Roger to issue their versions this month. All this is done in USA and Canada and Australia.

The culture of secrecy around MP's councils and the like finally needs to end.

13. Volunteers: with an ageing population and pensions many MP, Councillor or Civil Service jobs can be done for free by volunteers, reducing governance bloat, cost and incompetence.

14. Lords: I will shadow 2 Lords as an MP for greater scrutiny of the unelected Chamber by the Public. I support the removal of the final hereditary rights and reforms as point 8.

15. County reform: in 70 years KCC has had 1 Cabinet member from TDC or other deprived areas. I will call for a fixed “Deprived Region” KCC Cabinet position for Thanet, Dover etc. The West/East Kent divide must end with quarterly Cabinet meetings in East Kent and relocation of offices away from the bloat and gridlock of Maidstone.

16. County electoral reform: it is absurd that I cannot vote for or against Paul Carter or any other Leader of KCC. The division of County seats is quietly allocated, and changed around, at District level. This must end with the creation of clear “County Senate” elections and guidelines.

17. Civil Service: a presumption of no more than 25% of national and local budgets for governance. A small and effective civil service provisding those social policies the private sector accannot or will not provide. And 6 month targets to "hand off" any project to the private sector. To prevent the absurd planning and replanning of policies.

18. Audit Commmission: greater "early warning" powers when faced with a failed council. How absurd to witness a failed council and do nothing but record the failure.

19. Elected officials: the heads of Police, Fire, Ambulance, NHS and Universities (and their regulatory bodies) will hold 4-year terms and their organisations should present 3 candidates for public scrutiny and election. These should be held with “County Senate” elections, and Quango mandates, for greater local accountability.

20. MEP’s: greater reform of policy, cost and expenses is required: see the points relating to MP’s. I will support the end of the absurd gravy train circuit between Brussels and Strasbourg in favour of Brussels. And support the reallocation of NATO to Strasbourg with the World Parliament Assembly for Europe. Two buildings partly used. Absurd.

The result?

Make no mistake.

This would create an American-style grass-roots and transparent democracy where policy, costs and results are open and clear. For Thanet, Kent, SouthEast, UK and Europe.

Along with a top tier of elected officials (and quango officials) who must bear in mind the needs, not of their organisation, but their public’s needs and wants from their organisation.

The result should be less cost, less bureaucracy and far greater effectiveness.

I call on Steve Ladyman and Roger Gale to resign as failed MP’s.

Their towns have burned down or fallen down. Their areas have some of the worst deprivation in Europe. For years and decades. They have been in power for too long for no purpose.

Resign gentlemen. Resign.

As their last act I call on them to support the above electoral reforms with any impartial suggestions of their own, and request the abolition of TDC and an overhaul of KCC and SEEDA, and the prototype East Kent Council and Margate Town Council.

Failed. Failed. Failed.

Time for Change.

Tomorrow: Regeneration. Closing Manston and encouraging Tourism and the wider Economy.

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