Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Can county councillors be recalled? (updated)

A Bodffordd resident has written in to ask whether it is possible to 'recall' county councillors -- i.e. have them removed prior to scheduled local elections. Apparently at last night's public meeting to discuss the village's continued resistance to the infamous biodigester, several attendees started calling for the county councillor for the ward of Bodffordd, Plaid Cymru's William I. Hughes, to be somehow deselected. Residents feel that Cllr Hughes, who did not attend last night's meeting -- or indeed any of the public meetings held in his ward to counter the biodigester -- is no longer acting as their representative and they do not want to have to wait two more years until the next local elections to get rid of him. They are also irritated that he lives in Trefor -- some distance from both Bodffordd and its future biodigester.

The ability for local residents to be able to recall non-performing county councillors strikes me as just the sort of measure which could help focus the minds of some of Anglesey's more intransigent councillors. Unfortunately according to my reading of the Anglesey County Council's constitution there is no way local residents can force such a recall. Or is there? Perhaps some of my learned readers could let me know whether there is another way of achieving the same aim?

Also, if you're reading this Prof. Closs Stephens (and I've heard you are an occasional reader), please let me urge you to use your current power as chair of the recovery board to have the constitution amended so as to include a recall clause -- and in so doing improve the chances of a sustainable recovery once the board has decamped.
In the meantime, I'll be adding a recall mechanism clause to our People's Manifesto for Ynys Môn.

UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion regarding what a recall actually is. It does not allow a small number of dissatisfied people to remove a democratically elected representative -- it merely allows for a by-election to be forced if a sufficient percentage of local residents sign a petition. The incumbent is then freely able to campaign for his or her re-election. As such a recall should be seen as a measure which ensures that democratically-elected politicians are kept on their toes. For those who say a recall is somehow undemocratic, let me remind you that a recall mechanism was included in Aristotle's Constitution of Athens.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

The very idea that County Councillor William I Hughes, as an elected member should be removed from office because some people aren't happy with him, is nothing less than the rantings of left wing fascists more akin to the train of thought we might expect from David Bowles and his to bit gang.

But just to remind all, We live in a democracy and millions of our forefather have died for less

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that is the right way to do things either.

How about a local referendum to decide this type of planning matter?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You obviously have no clue. A recall (normally triggered by collecting the signatures of over 10 or 20% of residents) would merely cause a new election in a particular constituency. It does not cause the automatic removal of a particular representative. That person would then be free to campaign for his re-election against whoever wishes to challenge him/her. The Conservatives proposed just such a recall law for MPs prior to the election, not sure what's happened to it since.

"But just to remind all, We live in a democracy and millions of our forefather have died for less"

There is nothing un-democratic about recalls. Learn you facts before making adolescent rants please.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

To the adolescent Anon at 21:39.
You don't know what you are talking about do you? Engage brain before operating mouth.

Anonymous said...

Does any local government act permit recall? I think not?

I think the National Assembly may have the power to change that?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Druid.
I think you've opened up a bag of worms with this one. Democracy on trial
Still It'll certainly sort the men from the boys out, will this one.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Comment made at 21:48 deleted for making a specific allegation against a named person. I will however reproduce here the first part of the comment below:

"The very idea that County Councillor William I Hughes, as an elected member should be removed from office because some people aren't happy with him, is nothing less than the rantings of left wing fascists more akin to the train of thought we might expect from David Bowles and his to bit gang."

Rubbish. Fascists? you are either an elected member or you're married or having a fling with one. The electorate should have the right to de-select an un-interested, un-concerned, useless councillor if they so choose. [here after deleted...]

Anonymous said...

If a County Councillor is not performing his/her duty, then he/she should be reported to the Ombudsman, where a tribunal can suspend him/her from duty and/or disqualify him/her from holding office. That's the way it's done democratically .

Anonymous said...

The Ombudsman can only suspend a councillor for misconduct of some kind -- he cannot suspend one for not properly representing his/her constituents, etc.

Anonymous said...

This suggestion sounds like the work of JAJ to me, never mind he could br right in this case?

Anonymous said...

The Ombudsman cannot suspend anyone for anything. That's left to the Standards Committee or the Adjudication Panel for Wales, having received a report from the Ombudsman

Anonymous said...

JAJ looks to take the heat off himself thus restoring some (self) pride? The JR costs are still on peoples' minds.

bloody hell..., even in ancient Greece they were more advanced than Anglesey today.....

richard sletzer said...

It may be a roundabout way to solve the problem but perhaps I could suggest the best way to sort this out would be dismantle the Welsh Assembly itself.

As you all know, this is an illegal body which most people in Wales oppose. In the first referendum in 1979 no 956,330 Welsh people voted against it and only 243,048 for.

The rules were then rigged by the Labour Government to try to overcome this massive opposition and managed to deliver the slimmest of majorities in favour - a mere 6,712.

Clearly it's nonsense to claim the second referendum was a valid vote. Public opinion may shift over the years - but that degree of shift is totally unprecedented even allowing for the "charismatic leadership" of luminaries like Ron Davies. A 4-to-1 majority doesn't just disappear overnight. The second referendum's result was highly suspect

In any other election there would have been an automatic re-count. . The referendum voting papers were filed away in the Welsh Office in full anticipation that eventually a recount would be inevitable. They're still there.

Maybe now's the time to call for that long-overdue recount.

Anonymous said...

The Welsh Assemble are't the only ones that are acting illegal. David Bowles and Anglesey County Council, don't know any other way.

Dyfed said...

The bar for recalling councillors would need to be set high enough in order to deter any nonsense, but if that would be in place then I see no problem in having such a mechanism. It certainly isn't undemocratic and calling it fascist is a massive over reaction. And you must be really hurt by being called 'left-wing', Druid ;-)

However, I think WH is in a difficult position - as could all councillors be if they live up to one particular expectation of them by the recovery board, which is to have an island wide perspective. One complaint made about them is that they are far too parochial in their thinking, speaking up for their own areas to the detriment of the island as a whole.

If all councillors did was to reflect popular opinion on every planning application for a business we could end up with no businesses at all here. Siting this plant on the north coast, as you suggested in an earlier post, may be a good idea in principle, but would the people of Llanfaethlu, say, want it on their doorstep? And so on ...

I can understand Bodffordd residents' concerns, but they could be accused of nimbyism, could they not?

Central government is having to make highly unpopular decisons on spending currently - none more so than doubling student fees. If a referendum had to be held on each decision, how would people vote? Cuts are not popular and while people have been broadly in favour in principle, once the details emerge we will not be feeling the same. But the government are still taking those tough decisions. Sometimes to govern means taking a lead, as well as reflecting popular opinion.

In view of this maybe WH should not be personally vilified, as you suggest is happening in Bodffordd, Druid. They may not agree with him, but he's actually doing his job.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Dyfed - thanks for your comment.

"However, I think WH is in a difficult position - as could all councillors be if they live up to one particular expectation of them by the recovery board, which is to have an island wide perspective. One complaint made about them is that they are far too parochial in their thinking, speaking up for their own areas to the detriment of the island as a whole."

You are right about parochialism - but I think Councillors need to strike a balance between representing their community adequately and serving the island as a whole. If Cllr Hughes believes that Bodffordd is the right site for the biodigester then it would have been better for him to attend any of the numerous public meetings and put forward his case -- he has not done this. Had he done it he might have gained the grudging respect of his constituents.

"If all councillors did was to reflect popular opinion on every planning application for a business we could end up with no businesses at all here."

Not all planning applications attract the opposition of an entire community as this one has done. It is only right in such circumstances that the local councillor therefore places greater emphasis on representing his constituents.

"I can understand Bodffordd residents' concerns, but they could be accused of nimbyism, could they not?"

Or they could be accused of asking credible questions regarding why the Council's planning department feels Bodffordd is the right location for such a plant. Especially as a lorry park some distance from the A55 is now also to be built at the same "clean" business park.

"If a referendum had to be held on each decision, how would people vote? Cuts are not popular and while people have been broadly in favour in principle, once the details emerge we will not be feeling the same. But the government are still taking those tough decisions. Sometimes to govern means taking a lead, as well as reflecting popular opinion."

Then WH should "take a lead" and explain to Bodffordd residents why he supports the biodigester and not stay away from all public meetings.

Anonymous said...

Dyfed said.

"If a referendum had to be held on each decision, how would people vote? Cuts are not popular.."
The answer is quite simple.

Those that affect others= Fair cuts.

Those that affect yourself= Unfair cuts.

'Twas ever thus as recently shown in the 83% polling that the child allowance of high tax earners that so enraged the media luvvies and chattering classes should be abolshed

Anonymous said...

D'oh. That should be abolished and not abolshed. Red Flags' thick fingers syndrome must be catching! :-)

Avatar said...

There is no provision within current legislation that allows for the recall of councillors. In principle there is no problem with the electorate being able to recall a councillor, the debate is around what procedures should be adopted to recall them. Legislation would need to be amended to allow this, but as it rests on politicians voting for a system to allow recall of politicians I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In terms of the Biodigester itself, we know that legally the decision to grant planning permission was valid, and raise an important question about whether the planning system adequately addresses the concerns of local communities. One suggestion has been local referendums on important issues, again nothing wrong in principle with the idea.

Another important element should be the contact between the developer and the local community, and the need for the developer to fully consult and take on board the concerns of the residents prior to a planning application being submitted. Failure to address genuine concerns raised by the local community as part of the pre-consultation should be a material consideration in the planning process.

None of the above helps the objectors, so what are the next steps for the them, I think they need to consider should the need arise; when say the plant has been operating for some time and they believe it constitutes a nuisance, what evidence they would need to prove this, and how would they go about it. A good starting point, which I see they are doing, is to meet with the Environment Agency.

Anonymous said...

Page 11 Today's Holyhead and Anglesey Mail.

Another Freedom of Information shambles.

Anonymous said...

"Page 11 Today's Holyhead and Anglesey Mail."

Any reason why you are excluding those of us who do not have access to the rag in question from your profound post?

Anonymous said...

Council's U-turn over revealing cost of solicitors.

Freedom of Information says "no" - press office says "yes"

The County county has done a U-turn over disclosing how much money they paid a firm of solicitors to handle a dossier of complaints against two councillors.
The Mail submitted a FOIA request asking how much it had cost to compile the complaints.
One of the reasons given for not disclosing the information was that it might prejudice the Ombudsman.
The second reason given by the council's corporate information officer, Huw Pierce Prichard, for non-disclosure, was to protect the commercial interests of Liverpool based solicitors Weightmans LLP.
Mr Prichard said: Your question cannot be answered without disclosing commercially sensitive information about the hourly rates of the external legal firm.
"I have received comments from Weightmans LLP which demonstrate that disclosure of the information would undermine their ability to operate in a competitive environment."
On the details of how council officers have gone ahead with the complaints against elected members, Mr Prichard said:" Disclosure of this information would damage the process of making the complaints and also prejudice the Ombudsman's statutory duties to investigate complaints as presented to him.
Disclosure of this information would therefore be prejudicial to the process of preparing the complaints against the two councillors for alleged breaches of the Code.
However, when the Mail approached the council's press office about the issue, the Mail were Immediately give the figure.
A spokesman said the total fees for Weightmans was 35,386.50 plus VAT. And on going.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,
That's £5,386+ VAT and on going, not 35,386.+ VAT

An Insider said...

News from Llangefni.
Recovery Board tells Council to remove the offending items from the Alliance's "Terms of Engagement" and
Clive McGregor told to resign.
over a separate issue.

More to follow.

Geraint Williams, Rhostrehwfa said...

This incident in Bodfordd is a typical of example of how dis-functional the Isle of Anglesey County Council. Its obvious that there is no planning policy for the good of the island as whole. Every councilor seems to fighting for his corner and not realizing the potential of Mona, Bodfordd.
This site here was the best and most accessible to whole of residents of the island. Right in the center within fifteen minutes of anywhere on the island. Here we have an airfield with links to the whole of the UK and Europe. The Anglesey Show ground with all its benefits for staging shows and exhibitions. This was the prime site for Leisure and Retail amenities for everybody.
So what has happened now Mona, Bodforrd has become the dumping ground of Anglesey !!!
Its all down to councilors with no future foresight of the befits of having a such a location in the centre of the island.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dazzler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The new Local Government (Wales) Measure proposed by WAG which has just ended its consultation period, does propose such a system. It will probably come into affect from 2012

dazzler said...

just who are you fighting for? And in what form does this fight take?

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Dazzler - I emailed you directly today and explained my reasons for deleting your comment and asked you to kindly send me the link directly to review. Unfortunately instead of doing that you have reposted it here - therefore until I amable to review it in detail I will have to delete your post again.

Anonymous said...

A link to the Local Goverment (Wales) Measure 2010 is

http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-legislation/bus-leg-measures/business-legislation-measures-localgov.htm

Anonymous said...

with respect Druid, and without detailing your e-mail, you mention lawyers and defamation. But I have to argue that neither apply in this case. The individual mentioned has been named and shamed by the nationals. Having taken the stance you've taken I would have thought you'd have knowledge on this matter. As for the link, it is there so I posted it. The DP is un-earthing the detail i offered. As soonn as I have it you'll have it. But the above comment still hold weight and are as it should be....in the public arena.

Dazzler said...

apologies for not putting my name to the last post
Dazzler

Between the Lines said...

Here is a scenario for proposed measure for removal by referendum:

Citizens of Bodffordd decide it is in their best interest to declare war on Gwalchmai.
The Councillor objects, for good reason. They get him\her ousted as he\she doesn't represent the view of his\her ward. They then elect someone who doesn't like Gwalchmai and invade Gwalchmai.

Just because the popular opinion goes, does not mean it is right.

Use the Ombudsman

Royston Jones said...

God! I'm glad I don't live on Anglesey. So many bitter and twisted posts to this blog. (And more than a few loonies!) I used to think it was the council at fault there, but after following this blog for a while I think you've got the councillors you deserve.

The Red Flag said...

anon 12 Oct 21:39 - There is nothing un-democratic about recalls. Learn you facts before making adolescent rants please.

There mopst definately is something undemocratic about it. The vast bulk of incumbents at all levels from MEP down to councillor are there with less than half the votes cast. It would be a doddle to get 10-20% of the electorate of any ward to sign a Recall Petition.

It's hard in America where they have two parties both virtually identical. But here it would be simple. Do you reckon it would be difficult to get 20% to sign to oust IWJ? Or Albert? Or nip down to Cameron's pile and get 20% there? Everyone who didn't like the party holding the seat would sign.

In our multiple party electoral system based on FPTP it would be easy to do purely off mischief and no other reason.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Red Flag - I would agree with you insomuch that the percentage of the electorate needed to trigger a recall election would need to be high enough to discourage mischief. Following the boundary changes proposed by the Local Government Boundary Commission, the average ward size on Anglesey will be 1,451. Accordingly 10% or 20% of that number would probably be too low, but I think 40% for example (i.e. 580 people) would be a high enough boundary -- and indeed would represent a number of people higher than most councillors get elected with. That said, I think that we would find that the majority of electors will always be sensible enough not to put their name to frivolous recall petitions.

My opinion is that 5 years between elections can be too long when saddled with a dramatically under-performing councillor.

Anonymous said...

Red Flag.
What you say is so right.
It's what differs us from living in a democracy to those living in the tyrannical world that David Bowles and Clive McGregor live in.

Anonymous said...

£5,386 + VAT and still ongoing, what a B..ls up, and no chance of winning.
Hopefully when it is realised that those responsible have only been on a witch hunt to cover up the rampant dishonesty within the Council they will have the decency to go without causing any more trouble.

The disclosure of the information by the Council has damaged the process of making the complaint and prejudiced the Ombudsman statutory duties and the process of preparing the complaints against the two councillors

The Legal Department have been caught out influencing the Ombudsman, David Bowles has demanded to Influence the Ombudsman and Weightmans LLP say that discloser would undermine their ability to operate in a competitive environment, But the Ombudsman say's: "The Ombudsman is Independent and Impartial and his opinion would not be swayed by any pressure brought to bear on him"?

Anonymous said...

What a strange thread! Isn't it the case that Anglesey has had woefully underperforming (or non-performing) councillors for decades? Yet they keep being re-elected! That should be proof positive that a recall wouldn't work - few would have the interest and/or guts to put their names to a petition!

Anonymous said...

"In the meantime, I'll be adding a recall mechanism clause to our People's Manifesto for Ynys Môn."

Doesn't that rather make it less of a People's manifesto, and more like one person's manifesto?

Just being a 'critical friend'...

The Red Flag said...

Druid I would say 40% is to low. A more realistic figure would be 50% plus 1.

In 2-3 years time tories will be so unpopular (and no longer in Coalition) that all the other parties will gang up on them and will do just for the sake of it. Think back to Thatcher before the Falklands war bailed her out. In most of London, South Wales, the midlands, ythe north, large areas of North Wales even at 50% plus one you would not have had much of a probalem kicking the incumbent out purely on the grounds they were a tory.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 2.47 - a good point. As the general consensus seems to be against a recall mechanism I will hold off including it in the Manifesto.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the comments about nimbyism and what can community groups do to stave off unwelcome development.....google-up the Localism and Decentralisation Bill and see whats coming ?
Devolved decision-making powers to local communities, thats what.

Anonymous said...

Its clear as day...JAJ wants the BODFFORDD seat....he'll get it in time...then he's back where he loves to be....creating havoc ?

Anonymous said...

"A more realistic figure would be 50% plus 1. "

That sounds a bit like modern Russian politics. Have a read of poor Anna Politkovskaya's diaries, see how any figure can be achieved if the prize is big enough.

Anonymous said...

JAJ, has been one of those who have created the problems the Council has today, compounded by an insensitive socio-path we now have as a Managing Director. Nothing will change for the better until he has gone.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 16:20.
No he won't.

Anonymous said...

17.28 JAJ has the ambition....believe it !!
But, tell us, has he the support ?

Anonymous said...

Counc. William Hughes of Bodffordd (he lives up-wind in Trefor) is a bumkin character who is only capable of sitting through a meeting for 3 hours, looking beardy-blank, with a glazed look, and not saying a word.
Really useful in an intelligent debate !
Yes, time to go Wil !

another anon and me said...

Anon 9:35

"Really useful in an intelligent debate" - touche mate - as abuse is also etc etc

Someone needs to grow up me thinks!!

Anonymous said...

10.51 Grown up at least to recognise a useless representative of the people !

another anon and me said...

Grown up people put forward reasoned arguments to support their point of view, they do not with respect; as you seem too, revert to playground politics.

Anonymous said...

12.27 You are mistaken, with respect...no-one is playing anything here....merely making factual observation about the serious shortcomings of certain elected members, who have no place on a progressive Council ?

another anon and me said...

To repeat what I said “Grown up people put forward reasoned arguments to support their point of view”

Still to hear yours……

As in why certain councillors have no place on a progressive Council?

Anonymous said...

I hope there is a way to recall Councillors, that way we could recall Phil Fowlie back into office following the appalling manner he was removed.

Anonymous said...

"Merely making factual observations about the serious shortcomings of certain elected members, who have no place on a progressive Council"

Which councillors are you talking about? And who's told you that the council is progressive?

I think your living in Ignorance of what is really going on.

Anonymous said...

19.02.
A supporter of the pipe-puffer, obviously.
Sorry to disappoint, I know how much it hurts, but I know exactly what is going on, in, on, under and over this council...believe it... and I will not be led....I will keep my own counsel.
Time is running out for some....

Anonymous said...

19:11
No your wrong, not a supporter of the pipe puffer at all, but more to the point.

Why don't you, instead of keeping your own counsel tell us what's on your mind. Silence of wrongdoing is as bad as the act itself. Come please do share.

The Red Flag said...

All these pipe smokers and counsel-keepers. You are dong something that is piss-poor and pointless - orse it erodes your position themore you post.

You either say what you know, in public, under your own name and if needs be testify and be prepared to stand by it, or there is no point to you other than as ridicule.

Put up or shut up but for Christ's sake stop being irrelevant with a loud gob and no trousers.

Farts