There are a few changes coming up in the local councils around here.Â Â It would be nice to see some changes in the all-out district elections in Horsham and the one third of seats up for electin in Crawley next year (but don’t hold your breath for Horsham.Â Historically the only challenge to the Tories has been the Lib Dems, but national events make it unlikely they will be able to force their new friends out) but in the meantime we have a couple of byelections, and a possible new Chief Executive.I’m not sure what is going on with the Chief Executive of the county council, Mark Hammond.Â I don;t think anybody is, except for the new leader, Louise Goldsmith.Â Â Â According to most accounts, the leader called the Chief Exec back from leave to arbitrarily sack him.Â If that is true then it is terrible behaviour, not to mention unlawful.Â Obviously I am not overflowing with sympathy for someone earning Â£200K, but even they deserve to be treated fairly and lawfully.Â Â And that is without considering the potential cost to the council in payouts if he goes and claims for unfair dismissal.
Maybe not as exciting as the goings on up in Rugby, but still something quite strange is going on.Â Â There is no suggestion that this action of Goldsmiths was an official council decision, or discussed with the leaders of opposition parties, or even other memebrs of the Tory party.Â Â Be interesting to hear the details when they eventually slip out.
As for the byelections, we have two in Crawley.
One is on the borough council, where one of the Tory councillors for Tilgate has decided to resign because he can’t fit in the council work, the day job and the family, and the other is on the county coucil where Henry Smith has finally stood down after being elected to parliament.
I guess Labour should have some chance in Tilgate.Â The area always used to be Labour and since the Tories got in there they have had some fairly poor councillors, from what I have heard.Â I think the Tories peaked locally a year or two ago, and have been shedding council seats across the country by the hundred so that combined with the poor performance of the Tilgate Tories must help us.
If history is any guide then Maidenbower is a dead cert for the Tories, which is a shame.Â It is always a shame when a Tory wins aywhere, of course, but especially so here because of the candidate.Â Given the past performance this is about as close to a guaranteed win as you can get in local elections and so a chance for them to get somebody new into local politics.
Instead they have selected somebody who is already a borough councillor.Â Not only that, but he is the leader of the council, Bob Lanzer.Â Now I quite like Bob, and while the Tilgate Tory whose name escapes me finds it hard to fit being a backbench councillor into his life alongside his day job, Bob seemed to have no trouble fitting in ward matters and being in the shadow executive alongside his job.Â Going by the register of interests it looks like he has given up the day job now he is the leader, which would be understandable.
I don’t agree with the direction Bob wants to take the council but I have no doubt in his abilities to take it in those directions, but would county councillor just be a job too many?
As a rule, I don’t like having councillors on both the county and borough council anyway if it can be avoided.Â With so few people willing to stand these days apparently it can’t be avoided, but I don’t think it is a good thing for all sorts of reasons that I have blathered on about before.Â Usually when it happens the person represents the same area at both levels but in this case Bob would represent Pound Hill & Worth on one authority and Maidenbower on another – so two lots of constituents to deal with.
As leader of the council he will have all sorts of unavoidable meetings with auditors and the like, and visits to the represent Crawley at the LGA.Â These things happen during the daytime and can be arranged around council meetings, but the county council does all its business during the day.Â I can’t see there not being clashes and when that happens he is likely to prioritise the borough committments – there are enough Tories in county hall that they can afford to have a dozen absent and still win any vote going.
I’m sure Bob would be a good county councillor without the weight of responsibilites of being leader of the borough council, but as it stands I think this is an unwise move.Â Unless he is expecting to not be leader of the borough at some point in the not-too-distant future…Â perhaps he is anticipating a wipe-out in next year’s borough elections?Â