Monday, September 24, 2007

Echo says vote "No" on Thursday

A major filip for "No" campaigners this morning with the Northern Echo leader column recommending readers to reject the elected Mayor proposal later in the week.

Pete Barron, the editor chaired the debate on Friday, of course. I can also reveal that the Echo had separate meetings with both the "Yes" and "No" sides a couple of weeks ago. I went along with Alan Charlton, and we were given a thorough grilling by Pete, Chris Lloyd and Dave Roberts regarding the rationale of the "No" position. I believe Stuart Hill and Clive Owen batted for the "Yes" side.

I don't think either camp can describe the Echo as having been partisan one way or the other over this matter, which is why their endorsement for a "No" vote at this time is particularly important. It's a recommendation with a rider, of course - Darlington Labour Group has to continue to open up the workings of the Council, and make better use of the many talents available.

But fundamentally, the leader asks (and I paraphrase) "are things so broken in Darlington that we have to take the huge risk that an elected Mayor represents?" I agree with the Echo that the answer has to be "No".

15 comments:

Hurworth Rebel. said...

So the Echo says NO, not suprising realy, you make sure Peter Barron is on every board,panel,quango possible under the sun, that is designed to keep him sweet and "on side".(is it all voluntry I wonder?)

I personally think the Echo should of stayed neutral in this as for your paraphrase..."the leader asks, are things so broken in Darlington that we have to take the huge risk that an elected Mayor represents?"

YES YES YES

Its that very leader, John William's who has broke it!!!

Ian White, townliar.com said...

Could not agree more, JW is the one who has caused all this unrest by not listening...its too late to start saying he will now when his backs against a wall, he should of thought about that earlier.

I also think the Echo should of remained neutral. I as a reader am disapointed it has not, butits too late now.

THURSDAY is the day that matters please all vote regardless of choice and lets have a good turn out.

miketually said...

Hurworth Rebel: The leader saying "are things so broken in Darlington that we have to take the huge risk that an elected Mayor represents?" is the Echo's column, not John Williams.

Anonymous said...

Once again the Echo gets involved in politics. It got its self in a mess over the BNP advert during the by-election in Sedgefield, now it upsets at least half its readership over the elected mayor process. It should have stayed neutral, now it mat pay a price with cancellations of paper orders & only has its self to blame!

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes:

I think the Northern Echo’s editorial was helpful.

My questions to the No’s and to Nick in particular as the spokesperson are as follows:

In the three days which remain before the referendum, are you prepared to:

(a) bring in more of the opposition parties and the people into the government of the Borough;

(b) allow opposition parties to chair the Scrutiny Committees;

(c) devolve power and funding to properly elected community foras which represent the people and are independent of political control or influence.

(d) hold state of the Borough debates where members of the public can receive warts and all reports on what the council are doing, what has gone right, what has gone wrong and allow people to question the political figures and chief officers on any manner of subjects without prior conditions.

(e) allow the opposition parties and community groups to contribute to the Town Crier.

Yes or No?

Anonymous said...

I can't think of any councils, of ANY political flavour, that have opposition parties chairing all the scrutiny committees, can you? Do you think a tory council would comply with all your wishes?

Why not produce your own magazine, wherein you can write, spellcheck and distribute anything you wish, however inventive?

Darlington Councillor said...

Well, HW, I have been constantly mystified by those Yes supporters who somehow think it's great politics to paint Pete Barron as a "Town Hall lackey".

You shouldn't confuse the Echo's engagement with the Local Strategic Partnership with some strange loyalty to the Council. Pete chaired the recent LSP Enquiry Group into Health and Leisure, on which he worked incredibly hard, engaging with many sporting groups around the town. His recommendations will probably ask some hard questions of the Council.

Pete edits the local newspaper, with a long and proud campaigning tradition. Although at different times politicians of all parties grumble at some Echo line (or more likely the perceived bias of a reporter), I think we all recognise that basically the reporting is fair.

Wsa the Echo right to express an opinion on having an elected Mayor? Would Yes supporters have been up in arms had the Echo come out for a Yes vote this morning - I bet not!

In fact on this matter, no-one can accuse the editorial team of not having promoted the debate between the sides in an even-handed way, and listened carefully to the arguments - as I've posted, we got a grilling from Pete and Chris Lloyd, as did the No people.

I don't honestly think that the Echo will have alienated "half" its readership, simply because a large proportion hasn't made up its mind about this issue, or if they have, it's only been after the kind of soul-searching which went into today's Leader column.

Only the ultras, with their single-minded hatred of John Williams and their dancing horses will have been truly alienated. And in truth, being alienated is in their DNA.

Hurworth Rebel said...

You shouldn't confuse the Echo's engagement with the Local Strategic Partnership with some strange loyalty to the Council. Pete chaired the recent LSP Enquiry Group into Health and Leisure, on which he worked incredibly hard, engaging with many sporting groups around the town. His recommendations will probably ask some hard questions of the Council.

Is that why you let Wimpeys off with his 106 agreement for football pitches that "Pete" kept to a very small article, clearly he is very sport minded I can tell by the way the Echo let wimpeys off so lightly!

They fought hard for that cause..NOT.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Anonymous:

I believe that opposition parties should chair scrutiny committees. That is the role of the opposition to scrutinise the work of the executive (or the cabinet and cabinet members). Having chairs drawn from the same party as the executive or cabinet makes it all a bit cosy. The executive needs to be kept on its toes. You stated that no other authority has this. Why shouldn’t Darlington be the first to try it?


I will pass on the magazine front but I will say that free expression, honest, open debate and respecting and valuing the views of others even if they are opposed to your own views are the strengths of democracy.

Last Friday night was a good night for democracy in Darlington.

Anonymous said...

Alan, it sounds like you don't understand the purpose or function of scrutiny committees.

Scrutiny committees are non-political and are used as checks that the council is performing as promised. They are nothing to do with creating policy per se, as I understand it, but are a method of ensuring that current policy is being carried out correctly.

Some non-labour councillors already chair these scrutiny committees but, being professionals, do not see this as a platform to bash policies they do not agree with - but instead report where the council has failed to deliver services to the expected standard.

As for why we shouldn't be the first place trying what you suggest - the current system isn't broken and does not require fixing. We have nothing to gain by altering the present method of scrutiny, like everywhere else we should stick with what works.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

Point taken annonymous.

If the current system isn't broken and doesn't require fixing why is there a referendum for an elected mayor? Why are there so many anti Council letters in Hear All Sides in the Northern Echo and finally why did the Labour Party's majority tumble from 15 seats to 5 seats in May?

Anonymous said...

Alan, you seem to bluster and obfuscate endlessly, to nobody's benefit.

The referendum was called because a few disgruntled residents managed to scrape up nearly the required number of signatures to trigger it - after a year of campaigning that is. That's democracy.

As for the letters in The Northern Echo, as you are aware these are all from the same three or four contributors, who are the same people who campaigned for a referendum. Even my old mum spotted that one!

Your last point is more difficult to answer, as the last local election results were a combination of factors, none of which were to do with an elected mayor. (You might recall the war in Iraq, for example.) Local results were affected by national and international concerns, but despite this, Labour remained in power in Darlington, with a (slightly reduced) majority, but still a majority.

You are not alone in resenting this, but that is the reality of the situation - Darlington has a Labour council because they won the elections, fair and square.

Ian White, townliar.com said...

It maybe fair and square, however when the leader does not listen what other choice do we have, alledgedly its easy once a year to remove the leader, yet those other Labour Cllrs never seem to do so....WHY?

This is what has brought us to this point John Williams and his many hair brained schemes that have flown in the face of public outcry, in my oppinion, not nesercerilly Labour as a party.(can never spell that word)


I notice only yesterday he has decided to alter the contraversial cycle path/footpath at Haughton WHY? when 3 weeks ago it was perfect despite 100,s of protestors...anyone would think theres an election comming up!

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

No resentment on my part whatsoever. Whereever did you get that idea from? I am interested in government which actively involves people and where people feel they are part of government. Let's draw a veil over this.

miketually said...

"It maybe fair and square, however when the leader does not listen what other choice do we have, alledgedly its easy once a year to remove the leader, yet those other Labour Cllrs never seem to do so....WHY?"

Perhaps most people don't share your view that he's doing a bad job, Ian? Most people I speak to think the town is improving and is a nice place to live.

The council aren't perfect, but they are, on the whole, doing a pretty good job.

There's even evidence that they listen to residents - most of the complaints about the riverside path you mentioned earlier are about features which were added after consultation with residents, such as the gates and fences.