The proposal made by the leaders of Ashford, Dover, Canterbury , Shepway and Thanet councils to merge together to form an East Kent-wide council is very worrying say Thanet Greens.
The new super-council which will result from this merger covers an area of 642 square miles with a population of 642,000 people. Just like Kent County Council, which we presume the super-council will ultimately replace, the proposed new council will be big, remote from the people it serves, and consequently out of touch with the diverse range of social and economic issues an area of this size will encompass – so it is difficult to seewhat purpose this expensive and time-consuming change will serve.
We have seen a report about the super-council which will be discussed by Thanet Council on 14 July - and were astounded to discover that it doesn’t include a single reference to plans for consulting with the people of East Kent about how they wish to be governed. It appears from this document that this fundamental change to democratic processes in East Kent is expected to be planned and managed in secret meetings between senior Conservative & UKIP councillors and council bosses, with little or no engagement with the residents of East Kent, their community groups, or other political organisations which represent the views of many people in this area. Top- down approaches to democratic reform, such as this appears to be, have a habit of becoming expensive recipes for disaster, and we would urge Council leaders to think hard how they plan to consult the public on these proposals, and to publish their plans as soon as possible.
Thanet Greens have long argued for democratic reform in Kent, including the abolition of KCC and the devolution of its powers to smaller unitary authorities . However, we have always argued that these new authorities should be based on mergers of 2 or 3 existing councils, which would prevent the new organisations from becoming too large, cumbersome and out of touch with the people. We have also argued for extensive public consultation in drawing up the plans for new councils, and proposed that when the plans are completed there should also be a local referendum process on whether they should be accepted. Finally we would argue that members for every new council must be elected on the basis of proportional representation, and that the voting age for these councils should be reduced to 16.
Thanet Greens and our colleagues in Ashford, Dover, Canterbury and Shepway will be campaigning hard for modern, inclusive, 21st century democratic reform in East Kent. We will certainly not be supporting plans cobbled together in secret meetings of certain groups of councillors, which appear to offer no improvement to the people of East Kent, and seem only to serve party political, rather than community, interests.