Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sham Consultations Fuel Voter Disconnect

We hear a lot about growing public disillusion with politics and politicians. Those of us who believe most politicians go into politics for the right reasons are growing tired of fighting a rearguard action, constantly trying to persuade voters that the system works. Why am I growing tired of defending the political classes? Because even I am now beginning to feel let down by them. Some might say this is odd for someone who used to belong to them, or in the eyes of some still does. “We can’t believe a word any of you say” is something all politicians are sick of hearing on the doorstep. “Why should we vote for you when you’re all the same?” is another constant refrain. Why indeed.

Two stories from yesterday’s Eastern Daily Press illustrate perfectly the disconnect between government and the people. And in some ways, as well as illustrating the problems which politicians face, they both go to show how powerful our unelected quangocracy and bureaucracy have become. The two stories I have in mind are the sketchy plans to allow parts of the North Norfolk Broads to be flooded, with several villages disappearing under the water, and the government’s apparent willingness to keep the villages around RAF Coltishall in the dark about their real plans for the former air base. As the former Conservative Candidate for the area of the broads concerned, and a former resident of the picturesque village of Swanton Abbott, next to RAF Coltishall, I have a real interest in what happens to both.

The fact of the matter is that the government continues to go through sham consultations. They spend huge amounts of money in a vain attempt to convince people that they are being listened to, and then they blithely go ahead with the plans they had already developed anyway. This is exactly my experience on hospital closures in North Norfolk when I was the candidate there from 2003 to 2005, and it seems history is repeating itself on the Broads and at Coltishall. No amount of lobbying from the local politicians seems to do any good. No amount of press publicity on behalf of campaigners seems enough to divert the bureaucrats from their chosen path. No wonder people feel impotent.

They feel powerless to protect the properties they have invested blood, sweat, tears and money in over decades – and all because of a stroke of a Labour minister’s pen. They see their property values plummeting, all because of something few of them could have foreseen when they or their ancestors bought their houses.

It’s no good for local politicians to promise to “write to the Minister”, hold a public meeting or any of the usual failed tactics. A new approach must be found. It’s a heavy burden for local politicians to bear, and they will come in for a rough ride, but the ground rules have changed. It’s time for a bit of anger.

* From my Eastern Daily Press column today.


Chris Paul said...

What is the justification for calling anything here a sham Iain? Where is a timeline? Where is an already taken decision going out to consultation?

Are you just thrashing about smearing people who are trying to come up with options and doing their best to manage to consult stakeholders in the best way they can?

Who are the planning authority involved and what politics do they operate under? Do you feel the local government in the area is being effective and the national government or regional GO are not?

What is your justification?

I have visited these areas from time to time but I cannot pretend to have the local interest and knowledge you will have gained as a carpet bagger in the constituency.

Tony said...

I could not agree with you more Iain and I am glad you have raised this.

The fact is while Labour has preached about localism it has centralised power consistently. It is a sham to claim regional assemblies and regional development agencies equals localism.

These entities are central government agencies rubber stamping central government dictat while riding roughshod over the views and needs of local communities. Power has been stripped away from local authorities. Labour sees them as tools to deliver centrally planned decisions, rather than bodies to formulate decisions addressing local needs.

As a Borough Councillor I am constantly frustrated and annoyed by government agencies striking down decisions made locally, or imposing conditions that prevent us from making decisions, because they are not the decisions required by remote ministers and civil servants.

The biggest fraud of them all is the Local Area Agreements. They are illusory. They do not give power back to local authorities. We are held in a straightjacket by them.

Wellingborough can choose up to 35 local priorities from a long list of actions on which money can be spent. However 28 of the priorities are being imposed on us. That leaves seven priorities we can identify. But even then, the money is shared around the county, so Wellingborough's needs may not be addressed as money could be allocated to somewhere in Corby or Northampton as a 'more deserving case'.

Chris Paul's kneejerk response above tells us all we need to know about Labour's contempt for local decision making. Consultations are a legal formality where agencies go through the motions of listening to representations from people, before going ahead with their plan regardless of local opposition or constructive suggestions. The Post Office consultation is a case in point.

When it comes to consultation, stakeholder is the name given to those people who will have things done to them and things imposed upon them.

You have no idea how frequently local planning decisions are appealed and the government's planning inspectors overrule local authority decisions that were properly based in planning law.

Sorry for the length of this comment, but you have hit on one area that really gets me wound up.

Anonymous said...

You are right Iain, we could all give examples of local matters, in Councils of all colours, where overwhelming local opinion is utterly contradicted by local government action.

The cabinet system of local government was introduced by NuLab, and it is being ruthlessly exploited by certain councillors, again of all Parties, to contravene local democracy.

Scipio said...

Consultations do work occassionally - although the end result is usually a compromise based on appeasing local feeling whilst going some way to acheiveing what was hoped for by the Government/QUANGO.

CLosures of NHS maternity services are a point in case, and usualy end up with a bit of a fudge which everyone can claim as a victory.

However, this Government does seem to be particularly bad at pretneding to listen, and then no doing so. In defence of any Government though, most people are small c conservatives when it comes to changing anything which affects their life. We are all NIBYs.

The FRench simply ignore local disquiet, and ram thorugh public projetcs against local oppossition. That is why you travel at 5mph on the Eurostar in the UK, and 500mph in France (OK, I exagerate, but you get the picture)!

neil craig said...

It is worse than you think Iain. If there really were rising sea levels & the only way to stop losing land elsewhere was to allow this then I would support it. That is not the case & as the Telegraph article makes clear this has been as vulnerable to the sea as it is now for 1,000 years. The IPCC have now reduced threatened rise from Al Gore's 20 feet to 15" & I expect that not to happen either.

What is happening is that, to justify the global warming alarmist threats politicians & civil servants are declaring a defeat with no enemy army (or navy) in existence. The BBC having announced that "by 2026 Norfolk will be under water" the establishment has to artifically encourage at least a small portion of it to be.

If the Medieval Dutch could push back the sea & almost create their own nation there is no possible excuse for saying that we must retreat.

Indeed I have been working on the idea that the Solway Firth, between Scotland & England, could be recovered from the sea. In engineering terms the value of land would make this extremely profitable. The cost of squaring a political regime committed to Ludditism would appear prohibitive.

strapworld said...

Chris Paul Brown must be proud of you. We ordinary ones are not! Pay back time is acoming!

I agree with Tony Sharp. I was a Chairman of a NHS Trust and a District and Town Councillor for some years.

Tony articulates my utter frustration at this governments one size fits all - for everything -.

Planning decisions which Council rejected called in by the Regional Governmental Agency! Dictats from above forced on local people.

One day the truth of this government and its failed economic plans will be laid bare and I do not believe I would want to be in the shoes of any Labour former Minister/MP/Councillor then!

I love the area which the Government are consigning to the sea! Like much of our beloved England sea defences are being ignored and we are in the grip of 'enviromentalists' who put the lives of people at the bottom of their list.

It is about time we learned from our new great friends - the French. What would they do if their land and houses etc were threatened? Sit back and meekly accept?

Let us wake up from our slumbers ENGLAND.

Anonymous said...

I cannot understand why expectations are being 'managed up' here.

The words in vogue on coastal erosion are 'active managed realignment' or 'planned abandonment' or 'managed decline/retreat'.

I hate these sham consultations, but the fact is that the climate is going to change, sea levels are going to rise, and there is precious little point in standing Canute-like at the waves lapping on the shore, and eroding the coast, wishing it would turn back.

If you want to do something really meaningful about this problem, get rid of the Audi. Until then you are part of the problem, and not helping to find the solution...

Anonymous said...


A while ago I was involved in the preparation of the formal Home Office public consultation for a policy in respect of managed immigration.

All the discussion was about how to get the tick in the box that said the consultation had been done whilst avoiding any changes to the policy or its planned implementation.

It was a sham. And an expensive one at that.

Anonymous said...

You live in a dictatorship that crept in on little cat feet.

The nomenklatura - the elected government and the shadowy, populous, unelected quangos operating under the radar - regard your opinions and concerns with absolute contempt and seek them not.

They are malign. They despise you. They smirk at your worries and the points you try to raise, and shout out in Parliament, "So what?"

They dip generously into your taxes to inflate their expenses for their travel - and their families' travel, and their second homes. The Speaker of the House has essentially told the voters to go to hell while they get on with plundering the Exchequer.

They have shattered the most basic universal, building block of the human race, the family. They have shattered education so children are rootless and don't know their own history ... where they came from and where they belong. They keep them stupid and near illiterate because a stupid, illiterate electorate is a doddle to control.

They sluiced in people from a primitive society and an alien belief system - in the face of opposition from the owners of the country - in a further run at destabilisation of what used to be a solid, cohesive civil society. They lied that it was for needed employees, while keeping over a million young, healthy young people who were born in Britain comfortable on "benefits".

They had the impertinence to incorporate the insane Human Rights Act into our legal system when our legal system had been a template for the world for several hundred years.

They destroyed the police force - the first police force in the world and the model for all the others.

They invented new "thought" crimes to cow the electorate into not speaking out forcefully.

Our bonds of society and our confidence in our governance were unravelled in a mere 11 years.

The "Voter Disconnect" in your headline is irrelevant. "So what?"

And you let it happen.

strapworld said...


keep the audi. It is obvious that anonymous 1.13pm did not read the excellent interview - in the Daily Mail- last Saturday.

Sarah Sands interviewed Professor James Lovelock.
I will quote one paragraph from the two page interview - especially for 'anonymous'

Lovelock believes it is too late to repair the damage. Government targets are futile! Britain contributes such a tiny amount of emissions compared with countries such as China that our self regulatory measures are pathetic. "Everyone could burn coal all day and drive around in 4x4's and it would not make a scrap of difference"

Who are we to argue with the architect of the Gaia Theory!

Anonymous said...

Where did the membership of Militant Tendency and those extra-specials who were groomed as administrators by the Soviets eventually go? Judging by the behaviour of local and national bureacrats it is easy to imagine that they blended quietly into the civil service, various quangos and local government.

JuliaM said...

"...the fact is that the climate is going to change, sea levels are going to rise, and there is precious little point in standing Canute-like at the waves lapping on the shore, and eroding the coast, wishing it would turn back."

Ah, that's the spirit! Don't fight, just surrender. No sense investing in engineering or research, just give up and move.

It's really a wonder we ever came out of caves, isn't it?

Do you suppose that thousands of years ago, there was a little 'anonymous' saying "Don't go out there! Stay here, in the dark! Look, bears! There's no point building that round thing, you know!"

Unknown said...

If you are going to drain a swamp you don't ask the frogs..

Anonymous said...

just on this Post office thing.. they keep sounding off abut 800 post offices with only 16 people a week visiting?
800 ?
That cannot possibly be correct. There surely cannot be 800 villages and hamlets in the Uk with a population less than 100.

Large villages average 4000 people.
Small ones 800-2000.

This "800" statement has been put about for over 2 years by royal mail and the government,and no journalist or blogger seems to have challenged it?

One for you to raise prehaps Mr Dale?

Oh and Mr Chris Paul. We know you don't get it, and that's why you are so far behind in the polls.
Don't worry, it will all be over soon.

Little Black Sambo said...

Anon 1.13: "the climate is going to change, sea levels are going to rise .. etc, etc".
This is simply a modern substitute for religious faith.

neil craig said...

Thank you Anonymous 1.13 you prove the point in my earlier post perfectly. Even were we facing something more than the 15 inch sea rise alarmists now predict there is no possible doubt that, if the Dutch can protect against far worse, we could to.

This land simply has to be destroyed to keep the eco-fascist catastrophic warming scare story going. That is the only reason.

Anonymous said...

actually here's a thought Iain, the government dont care much about people but they do care about great crested newts. Secretly import a colony of the little buggers and let the dyke of EU regulations regarding the disturbance of endangered wildlife hold back the rising salty tide.

Doesnt like salt water does the newt. Makes him come over all extinct like.

Anonymous said...

You get 'consulted' and then you get what the powers that be want. Just like everyone was consulted on Post Office closures and a thousand other things.
Bring back democracy to communities and put 'consultation' in the dustbin.
Will anyone listen, looks like you are Iain - but anyone else?

Johnny Norfolk said...

But not Tony Benns farm in Essex, the money was found to protect his property.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, you'll be telling me the economy's in trouble next.

It's what we come here for, cutting edge commentary, innit?

Anonymous said...

It's not about this latest assault on our country. It is about the programme of destruction that began when the Trojan horse, Blair and his wife Elena Ceaucescu - oops! - Chereeee, carried in a deadly virus and set about spreading it.

I'd be surprised if any of them believes this "environment" rubbish. It's a rod to beat the backs of the voters into submission. As is the large wadge of islamics they let in. As is the fact that they're letting convicted terrorists against our society and our country out of prison early. Destabilisation.

Now Des Brown is saying "We must talk to the Taliban". This cheers me up, in a mournful way, because the Taliban isn't interested in compromise. They are interested in extending the caliphate. End of story. If Brown and all those sub-normal ugly people with whom he has surrounded himself think they are going to make themselves some kind of "partners" with the Taliban, I shall watch them being eaten alive with enormous pleasure. The Trots/Marxists are too stupid and complacent to understand what militant islam is all about. Hint for Brown: they are not interested in making new best friends.

copydude said...

There are huge sea defences in Holland. Some, like the Rotterdam boom, have only been used a couple of times in a decade. But it's what you expect Governments to do and why you pay your taxes.

Of course there is an agenda here. The Post Office closures were the result of an agenda. First, the pensions and benefits business was given to the banks. Both categories of claimant were browbeaten into opening bank accounts they didn't want.

The subsequent consultations were a cynical sham - the PO had already been stripped of a core business.

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...

The times they have a changed.

Rice prices rose by 30% on Thursday. All around the world grain bins are being checked.

There is no way that 16,000 acres of Prime Agricultural land can be given up to the sea just when world shortages of food are appearing again.

Unless of course English Heritage, Chris Paul et all ALSO decide WHICH CHILDREN SHOULD STARVE in the same way as which village should flood then that will be OK.

16,000 acres produces enough food to feed 250,000 people on a third world diet.

Its time to defend England again.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so you're right. Government consultations are a sham. So what? That's been so for ages. What's different about these that you are jumping up and down about them, while you let all the other ones that were bereft of principle carry on, even to legislation, without comment?

Not agin you, just don't see how you are making the distinctions

Unknown said...

Far to much of our tax income is spent by central government. Tax income raised should go directly to local services inculding local government, health and education. In this case Norfolk Council would have the budget to spend if desired. The role of central government should be to monitor and direct, not to manage. This can be done on a minimal budget.

Anonymous said...

Tone ...."There is no way that 16,000 acres of Prime Agricultural land can be given up to the sea just when world shortages of food are appearing again."

16,000 acres is only 0.03% of the area of the UK. In any case it is not 'prime agricultural land'.

It would help your argument if you could tell us how much it would cost to protect that 12,000 acres from flooding.

Anonymous said...

Building sea defences? Nanny state gorn mad, people should look after themselves...

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...

Anonymous said
"It would help your argument if you could tell us how much it would cost to protect that 12,000 acres from flooding."

Its 16,000 acres.

16,000 acres x 3 tonnes wheat/year.

= 48,000 tonnes wheat per year

1 tonne of wheat can keep up to 5 people alive on a subsistence diet.

So "the cost" of letting it flood is 250,000 people staving during times of world food shortage.

now, things have changed

the world has had its 7 fat years

world reserves of wheat, rice, and soya are at record lows.

World Population at record highs.

There is no magic wand to prevent starvation but saying "so what?" at this turning point in world food output just shows what a shite government, indeed ruling elite this country has got itself.

Letting 16,000 acres flood on the basis of the past 20 years of surplus is folly. But this country is fucked anyway because you and people like you have been running it on believing your own sanctimonious bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Iain, There is no reason for people to vote for the liblabcons. Not unless they directly make money out of it through being a councillor, member of a quango etc.

There was a time when voting did make some difference in terms of the basic approach pursued by the government. These days the only difference is which very small bunch of politico hacks gets to make most money out of the system. The liblabcons are all basically committed to destroying Britain, and especially England, and imposing the EU police state.

Our political system is essentially the feudal one imposed on us by the Normans with a few bits of pretend democracy added on. Up to a point it worked well enough for an extraordinary length of time. Now, virtually all those engaged in it are traitors - and people know it.

Plus, what Verity said.

Anonymous said...

isnt there a bloody great windfarm at blood hill near winterton on sea? joined up ecofascist thinking!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"isnt there a bloody great windfarm at blood hill near winterton on sea? joined up ecofascist thinking!"

Should still be operational enough if the surrounding area is flooded. The clue is in the name 'Blood Hill'.

Anonymous said...

"Its 16,000 acres.

16,000 acres x 3 tonnes wheat/year."

Quite a lot of that 16,000 acres is already under water. Not very good for growing wheat.

Do you know anything about the land use in that area? Most of it is not arable but is just pasture.

There is plenty of suitable surplus land available for wheat production in Canada, USA and Australia. A lot of land currently being used for biofuel crops could easily be switched to grain crops.

"World reserves of wheat, rice, and soya are at record lows."

At present, stock are lower than they have been for a good few years but you can't say that they are at record low levels because reliable world-wide records exist only from 1980 onwards. The current shortages are the result of extreme weather conditions (either droughts or floods) in 2007 in some of the main grain-producing areas.

Your 'cost' argument is nonsense. What is the monetary cost of building and/or maintaining the flood defences?

Anonymous said...

If the Medieval Dutch could afford to keep their country above the waves, we, who are orders of magnitude richer, can easily afford much lesser expenditure here. Anon 9.30s implication that we can't would be sheerest dishonesty even if the eco-fascists weren't intent on spending £400 million a day on Kyoto & many other subsidy generating activities.

Anonymous said...

neil craig said...
"...we, who are orders of magnitude richer, can easily afford much lesser expenditure here. Anon 9.30s implication that we can't would be sheerest dishonesty ..."

I am not saying we can't afford it. What I am saying is that we can't have a sensible discussion about it unless we know the costs involved (and the benefits).
Anon 9.30 a.m.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.40 p.m. is right. The cost does need to be considered. I knew someone on the South Coast whose house was in danger of disappearing due to cliff erosion. She was demanding that the government or the local authority take action to stabilise the cliff. It turned out that the cost of the work would have been £5,000,000 to save a property worth £400,000.

I don't know if it is still there. Since she bought the house 20 years before, knowing that there was a cliff stability problem, I don't suppose her house insurance covered it. Does anyone know what the compensation position would be in this situation?

copydude said...

First, re: 'The costs have to be considered'.

Without even knowing the costs of essential maintenance, you can not write off the investment of three centuries.

The Dutch waited decades to build the Amsterdam overspill town of Almere. Land doesn't dry out in five minutes. For the sake of some essential maintenance, the flooding is as profligate as selling the gold reserves.

Apropos 'you can grow stuff cheaper in Canada" . . . well, really. You can also buy more affordable starter homes in Eastern Poland. But we thought we elected NuLab to look after Britain.

Speaking of homes, the country is millions short - for social housing or first time buyers. The horrendous land costs make it difficult for the Government to correct this. Flooding the little we have makes no sense.

The Duke of Bedford (who drained the Fens in 16 something) had more vision than Gordon or Tony combined. This is so surreal - it's NuLab turning the clock back centuries.

Anonymous said...

So far we have had 3 public consultation on the draft East of England Plan. At each attempt the number of objections to development north of Harlow has gone up; 3,000 then 5,000 and at last count over 7,000 (over 90% of all objections).
Publication has now been delayed again. I wonder how GO-East (the Government) is going to explain away the results of these consultations