I have recently been contacted by Chang.Org. asking me for my views on how citizens can be encouraged to vote.
My overall response has been that until there are parties worth voting for there is no point making in making the effort.
Politicians of all parties promise one thing and then do something completely different when they get into power.
They appear to consult with the electorate but this is usually a sham exercise so that they can give some legitimacy to their own aims.
The latter is very evident in the way that Labour controlled Wakefield Council is currently exercising its powers.
Each week in this paper various sections of our local population are protesting about a wide range of issues which it is felt are seriously affecting local communities.
This ranges from local healthcare provision to housing developments. Those who protest rarely win and they are invariably served by the well-known platitudes “this is progress” and “it will improve services”.
Two issues were highlighted in last week’s paper. The Market and Pugneys Country Park.
First the market: It was obvious at the start that the council had made a huge blunder when the market was moved to its present site. Now they want to pull it down.
They have waited for the last possible moment to deliver this news to the people of Wakefield and to the market traders. On February 5 the website of the Architects Journal were already showing an artist’s impression of the new cinema which is to be designed by Leslie Jones Architects.
This illustrates that the whole matter must have been under consideration for many months, yet the people whose livelihoods depended on this were the last to know.
The council say that they cannot afford the £126.000 that it costs them to subsidise the market.
The traders have offered to pay more rent. This appears to count for nothing and does not even seem to warrant negotiations. It appears that this is a “Done Deal”.
When there was a public outcry about the demolition of the market the council then announced that they would “consult”. This seems to have taken the form of an online questionnaire which is designed to give the council the answers that it wants.
Only one question is asked about the market “Is it satisfactory?” the rest of it relates to how often one would visit Wakefield when the new cinema is up and running. The odds are stacked against the traders and the people of Wakefield who wish to see their market continue.
Their wishes are simply being ignored and the consultation is nothing more that the usual sham exercise. Meanwhile the council will no doubt benefit from the sale of the market hall site but will the people of Wakefield be told how much they were paid for it and what they intend to do with the money? I don’t think so. We should be told. They work for us!
The possible loss of Pugneys Country Park makes headline news this week. Again, This appears to have come completely out of the blue for the Friends of Pugneys. The council say that nothing has been decided yet. But how can we be sure? Has another deal already been done?
There seems to be no transparency about how these decisions are arrived at. Who decides what is to be kept for future generations and what is to be passed to
the private sector? We are told that the council cannot afford to subsidise the market or to run Pugneys.
On the other hand, the accounts for the Hepworth Gallery show that in the year 2011-2012 the council contributed almost £2m towards the running costs. This is not a one-off payment as it costs over £3m a year to run the gallery.
This means that the council needs to spend at least £2m every year on the Hepworth. The argument is that this generates about £10m for the local economy but many disagree with this figure. Should we really be spending this much on one site if the council finances are as bad as we are being told they are?
Local councillors really do need to start listening to the people of Wakefield.
We are not stupid or poorly informed. Many of us care deeply about this area and we have a right to be treated as intelligent citizens.
Councillors will presumably be after our votes in the forthcoming elections. Will it be worth making a trip to the polling station in the hope of having a real say in the decision making process or simply another opportunity for councillors to use our votes to rush unpopular projects through and hope we won’t make too much fuss?