New planning rule is not democratic

First published in Your Views

So this is democracy, Redbridge-style, under the guidance of our exciting new council leader, Jas Athwal.


He seems to think our elected councillors are so dim and ill-educated that they can’t be trusted to take sensible  planning decisions. 


And what does he think should be done about it? 


Why, he wants everything left in the hands of unelected officials in the planning department, who apparently have “huge amounts of education” and should be allowed to act just as they see fit. 


It would seem “egotistic”, he says, if mere councillors could overrule them.


Well, it’s a novel approach right enough, in a country where politicians are rarely so modest about their abilities. 
So here’s a question for Mr Athwal.


If he and his fellow councillors believe themselves to be so utterly useless, why on earth did they put themselves up for election in the first place? 


As for the supposed qualities of Redbridge planning department, I fear Cllr Athwal is much too easily impressed. 
My own experience suggests that this is a local bureaucracy that simply doesn’t deserve public confidence.


To quote just one example, Wanstead residents will remember that earlier this year the owner of the Evergreen Field surrounded the site with a long screen of black plastic sheeting, creating a real eyesore on the High Street. 


Local people were appalled. Local councillors demanded action. 


But what did our timid and ineffectual planning department do? 


Nowt. Zilch. Nothing. It took an unknown but public-spirited vigilante to go out one night and remove this blot on the landscape.


So what does the future look like in Cllr Athwal’s brave new world?


While he and the ruling Labour Party look the other way, I fear that anonymous officials will preside unchecked over a steady decay in our local environment. Democracy? I don’t think so.


Michael Toner,
Addison Road,
Wanstead.

Comments (1)

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3:18pm Sun 3 Aug 14

mdj says...

If it seems bizarre for an elected politician to say that elected politicians have no useful place in the governing process, it may be helpful to look at the background of that politician.
I don't know about Cllr Athwal's background in particular ( Redbridge residents will) but it will be seen that many come from a local government or other bureaucratic background, such as public sector, party or union hierarchy.
To many of them - too many - being a councillor is just another local government job, with the biddable mentality that goes with that background.
Why, to the logic of such a mindset, duplicate tasks by having both a planning staff AND councillors scrutinise applications?

It does not cross their minds that their duty as a councillor is give voice to our dissatisfactions with local government. Scrutiny of authority, and if needed, exposure of failings, do not figure in their world view.

In Waltham Forest we recently had a councillor - now thankfully departed - who said in all seriousness that her job was 'to explain council decisions to the public'
Since the council has its own salaried PR staff, publishing a widely-derided paper to promote their otherwise invisible achievements, that certainly seems to be one task that does not require duplication!
If it seems bizarre for an elected politician to say that elected politicians have no useful place in the governing process, it may be helpful to look at the background of that politician. I don't know about Cllr Athwal's background in particular ( Redbridge residents will) but it will be seen that many come from a local government or other bureaucratic background, such as public sector, party or union hierarchy. To many of them - too many - being a councillor is just another local government job, with the biddable mentality that goes with that background. Why, to the logic of such a mindset, duplicate tasks by having both a planning staff AND councillors scrutinise applications? It does not cross their minds that their duty as a councillor is give voice to our dissatisfactions with local government. Scrutiny of authority, and if needed, exposure of failings, do not figure in their world view. In Waltham Forest we recently had a councillor - now thankfully departed - who said in all seriousness that her job was 'to explain council decisions to the public' Since the council has its own salaried PR staff, publishing a widely-derided paper to promote their otherwise invisible achievements, that certainly seems to be one task that does not require duplication! mdj
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