Times & Star Politics Column - 12th July 2019

Below is Councillor Mark Jenkinson's politics column in this week’s  Times & Star.

Mark is the Borough Councillor for the Seaton and Northside ward, Leader of Allerdale Conservatives, and Deputy Leader of Allerdale Borough Council.

You’ll often hear people say that ‘politics doesn’t belong in local government’. Politics comes from the Greek word ‘polis’ meaning ‘city-state’, which was classically understood to refer to the most desirable form of organisation. Today, politics is generally taken to mean the activities associated with the governance of an area. Councillors by definition are politicians.

Perhaps they mean that political parties have no place in local government? But a political party is just a group of people with similar aims. Every decision taken by a council is the result of a majority within a group – be that group a committee, or full council. 

Politics in Allerdale is made up of a number of groups, be they political parties or groups of like-minded independents. Seven weeks ago, three of those groups came together to form a new administration, to pursue our collective goal of making Allerdale an even more attractive place for residents to live, businesses to thrive, and tourists to visit. 

The desire to be a councillor is generally borne from the desire to make a difference. While we may disagree on how we get there, most of us have the desire to effect positive change. It’s a sad day when those who wield power forget their reason for being, and to see groupthink lead to irrational decisions based on the flawed logic that one must follow their leader to maintain harmony.

To return to Ancient Greece, Pericles said that “although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it”, which is what we did in the May elections – the many saw the flawed decisions being made by the few and decided to stand for no more. I refer, of course, to the award of the ‘gold-plated’ bin service contract (Times & Star, October 19) that lead to bin chaos, and the decision to proceed with a £95m, 50-year PFI contract on a stadium with ‘challenging’ timescales, no firm commitment from the proposed tenants, and the council taxpayer as guarantor.

To say that the first seven weeks have been a baptism of fire would be an understatement. But I can rest easy knowing that we have made difficult decisions because they were the right ones for the many, not because they make us feel warm and fuzzy.

The partial suspension of some recycling services was not an easy decision, but came from the need to prioritise a weekly domestic waste collection for the whole of the borough, as some had not had a regular scheduled collection since March. As I write, this short-term solution has led to the first 100% scheduled collections of refuse, paper and rural collections in 15 weeks. 

In the meantime, working together we can find a longer-term solution to the problems we have inherited, while those that left them in their wake refused to be part of the administration that will pick up the pieces. Perhaps if ‘dog poo and weedkiller’ had been their priorities, the story might have been different.