8 April 2011

Stepping up........

Yesterday marked the end of what could be called 'the phoney war'. The deadline for nominations to Somerton Town Council passed at midday on Monday April 4th. Yesterday, Thursday April 7th saw publication of the final list of candidates and Somerton now knows that, sadly, it won't be having an election.

Anyone who has checked here will already know that I decided to stand as a candidate and when the list of nominations was published on Monday there were a total of 16 candidates for 15 seats on the Council. That meant that, on Monday, there was going to be an election.

However, the process offers a window of opportunity where candidates can reconsider and, if they wish, withdraw their candidacy. When the final list was published on Thursday, three candidates had decided to withdraw leaving only 13 candidates for 15 seats hence no election.

But Somerton isn't alone because the figures published by SSDC show that 77% of SSDC's town and parish councils are in the same situation without enough candidates to cause an election. What does that statistic say about the ground floor of our democracy? I'd suggest that it indicates widespread disinterest or disaffection which, if true, is one of my own central concerns about our limited democratic process.

If our society is so disengaged at this most basic of levels in our democratic process, what can we expect of national government? The political parties know how things work and they know that disinterest is widespread so what do they do about it? Nothing. For people with no interest in the wider population, and in that group I lump most politicians and parties, it does not serve their specific interest to encourage engagement. They are quite happy to be left alone to pursue their own specific agendas.

In a place like Somerton, a town council can do a lot to set a standard for the conduct of public affairs and the January Council ushered in an era of transparency in its activities, a transparency that Somerton hadn't seen for a decade, maybe more. I'd like to be part of an effort to deliver more transparency in the Council's affairs and also to promote more community involvement in the work of the Council.

Somerton Town Council is, in my view, Somerton's Town Council. Somerton's community needs to rediscover a sense of ownership of the council and I would like to be party to that process.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly