Wednesday, 10 October 2018

It's not a case of doing as you're told, it's a case of doing as you promised!

On Conservative Home a few days ago there was a somewhat tedious article from a chap who thinks being a councillor should be a sinecure and local Associations should have their rights to interview (and remove) non performing councillors curtailed. 

I will avoid the temptation to go through his article and tear it apart line by line. My views on the rights of Associations and Members are already well documented. But the general tone of his article needs addressing.

In West Kent I carry a fair number of emotional scars from standing firm in support of the right of my six Approval Committees to use the powers invested in them by the rules. Sometimes I think they make mistakes, sometimes I agree with them. Often I think they are too soft.  Contrary to popular belief (particularly from those not approved or re-approved)  I never express a view or intervene in the process. I am there to ensure the applicants are treated fairly, the rules are followed and the outcomes recorded. 

Where I perhaps do make a difference is in empowerment. Before each set of interviews commence I spend time with each panel to ensure they feel empowered to do what they think is right. And this involves a fair amount of time encouraging them to explore not just a councillor's work in the Town Hall, but all aspects of the Candidates' Agreement, which each of them signed before they were selected four year's ago. In fact, this agreement has been around and in use for 10 years, so a long serving councillor coming up for re-election in 2019 would have signed this form at least three times. 

Most of my readers will have seen it, but for those who have not - here is the section highlighting the "binding agreement" between councillors/candidates and the Association. 

The second, seventh and eighth bullet points are the ones most hotly contested. 

Every incumbent councillor interviewed this year (for elections in 2019) would have signed this identical form four years ago. No-one made them sign it or held a gun to their head. They did so knowingly and without coercion. It is therefore not unreasonable when someone signs an agreement for the committee empowered to uphold the process seeks adequate explanation when the evidence suggests the councillor has not done what they pledged to do four years earlier. 

Each and every one of us has parts of our job we don't like doing.  I absolutely love 50% of my job (the bits connected with campaigning and winning elections). I tolerate with good grace another 30% as it's vital to our success (fund raising, writing and managing financial appeals and overseeing the data capture of tens of thousands of VIs each year). And there is 20% of my job I bloody detest, mainly ongoing and pointless internal meetings where endless evenings of my life are frittered away listening to pompous bores droning on about what they haven't achieved and criticising the hard work of others.  

But just because I don't like meetings, or writing raffle ticket appeal letters, or typing-up endless and usually pointless pages of minutes, it does not mean that I would get away with not doing so. All of the above form part of the terms & conditions of my employment, which I signed before being employed. So I suck my teeth and get on with it. 

Just as "playing a full, active and constructive part in their branch and Association" "contributing to its financial success" and "co-operating fully with the Party's campaign strategy for elections including giving mutual aid to other Conservative candidates when asked" might not be among our councillors' favourite activities, given all the above formed part of the written agreement signed before being selected four years ago, they should just get on with it too with as much good grace as they can muster. 

And if a councillor has broken their written word and not fulfilled the terms of their agreement without good reason, they really shouldn't be too surprised when they are called to account. 

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