My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Friday, 7 February 2014

Campaign for Democracy in Thanet?

Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury
here’s a lot of talk about Thanet Council’s dysfunctionality, but little discussion about how to fix it. Here’s my suggestion. First, I think most of TDCs problems emanate from the fact that the council is ruled by a leader and five cabinet members from the same party who together make all the important decisions at TDC. Many commentators believe that this system concentrates too much power into the hands of too few people who all share similar views. This means that decisions are often based on a narrow range of ideas which can easily lead to ill-informed and bad choices being made like those related to Pleasurama or TransEuropa Ferries.

Another problem with the leader/ cabinet system is patronage. Cabinet members depend on the good will of the Leader to keep their posts and their lucrative responsibility allowances, Council officers are reluctant to disagree with political leaders and cabinet members for fear of their jobs.  This often means that Leaders and Cabinet members become surrounded with yes men and women who, because of self-interest, seldom dare to question or disagree with their patrons. Unhealthy relationships such as these, often lead to a regime of fear and secrecy which can have a disastrous impact upon the quality of decision making, often leading to bad practice, misconduct and corruption. Thanet has had its fair share of this in recent years.

But it doesn’t need to be like to this. The Localism Act 2011 gives residents the tools to fight back against councils like Thanet which are ruled by secretive cabals of powerful politicians and replace it with something better - the committee system.

Show of Hands in Favour of Committee System
The committee system prevents undemocratic rule by tiny elite from the same political party.  Power is spread out across several committees. Backbench councillors from all political parties  become  engaged in making decisions rather than being excluded as they are under the leader/ cabinet model. It’s even possible for members of the public to be co-opted on to committees to give councillors the benefit of their specialist knowledge and experience. An inclusive approach to decision making means that wiser choices, which are more reflective of public feeling, are usually made. It also destroys the malign influence of patronage which is a great corrupter of democracy.

So how do we make this change? Simple the people of Thanet must raise a petition signed by approximately 5,000 registered electors (5% of total registered electors). If this is achieved, then the Council is forced to hold a referendum on changing the decision making process from the leader cabinet model to a committee system.

In Canterbury, local people who have become disillusioned with the City Council’s leader/ cabinet model have recently set up a Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury. I attended a public meeting called by the group on Wednesday which was attended by almost 200 people, which for a wet stormy evening was a pretty good showing. The campaign group is now now busily collecting signatures for their  petition for a referendum.

We need to follow Canterbury's  lead. A public meeting called by Thanet Watch, which will be discussing our dysfunctional council, is being held at the   Red Hall Broadstairs  on 26th February. This  might be a good place to begin talking about replacing Thanet's leader/ cabinet system with a committee system. A representative from the Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury will be speaking at this meeting.  I think it would be well worth attending this meeting to find out more.

If anyone who interested in contacting me about campaigning for a committee system in Thanet please e-mail on

If democracy is good enough for Canterbury its good enough for Thanet. 
Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury Leaflet


  1. Talking of "unhealthy"... none of the local bloggers or cllrs seem to have mentioned the appalling obesity problem in Thanet (despite the fact that it made the front page of the Gazette). As a "green" cllr, why aren't you doing more to encourage better cycle and foot access in Thanet?

  2. But who are we voting for with committees? It's already bad enough with the existing committees. Ban state funding for parties. Review civil servants every 3 months. FOI.

  3. Thanks for the work you are doing Ian. How foolish to take away the structures for dialogue at local level? I generally find sitting around a table with others knocks the rough edges off of us. And as long as participants can see the value in attending them, I don't think there should be a problem?

    When it comes to the individuals who belong to political parties, well, I guess they and their values can be judged by their conduct on these committees?

  4. Coming from ian Driver about Democracy within local councils is a joke..The man is a mindless bully who only satisfies his own ego pretending to stick up for local opinion. he has jumped political ships so often since his election for the labour Group at Northwood - he should join the crew of the Marie Celeste

  5. Someone needs to organise a public meeting to tackle the obesity crisis, perhaps inviting boses of both fitness clubs and fast food outlets, as well as TDC, KCC and the NHS. Unfortunately the left-wing appear to be generally larger and unhealthier than the right, at least here in Thanet!

    1. am trying to lead by example and am now on a diet. I would recommend the National Health diet
      its simple straightforward and down to earth. You are wrong about the left-wing being the most obese. Look at Eric Pickles. He is a big boy. Interestingly Eric and I come from the same town in Yorkshire - Keighley - we are both obese and bald and I believe he was a great fan of Trotsky in his younger days like I was. I wonder what this might mean? Perhaps genetic tests are needed?


  6. hi William its difficult to find a suitable venue at a reasonable costs so don't read too much into the location. One thing is for certain if a campaign and petition is started it must be carried out on non-party political basis which anyone can support. In my book democracy and constitutional change cuts across parties and is all about human rights.

  7. Although we have political differences it would be a pleasure to work alongside you in such a campaign William

  8. I see Mr Driver is now suggesting that a cafe opens in Ramsgate that people can take their (illegally purchased) cannabis in.
    Mr Driver would appear to be encouraging illegal behaviour and acknowledging that he has broken the law in the past. Would he admit to doing so now? Would he frequent the cafe he proposes?
    This is not the first time he has decided which rules apply to him and which don't.
    Is this a man that is fit to be a Councillor, yet alone an MP, as he now aspires to be, as he uses the Green Party as a stepping stone to power, as he has several other political parties and groups in the past?