The political commentators in our national newspapers seem, these days, to be telling us constantly that our Westminster politicians are completely out of touch with us, the electorate. They live in a cocoon; we live in the real world. One of those commentators recently voiced the opinion that we, the electorate, will put up with lechery, dishonesty over expenses and even downright rudeness from government ministers and other members of parliament, but we resent with a vengeance our views being ignored.
I fear that the criticisms levelled at our Westminster politicians can now – quite justifiably – be levelled at the majority our local politicians in County Hall. Those in question seem completely unwilling to listen to us, the electorate. Our views, however responsibly aired, are of no interest to them. They, too, live a cocooned existence.
Take waste incineration. After a bruising three or more years, Norfolk County Council (NCC) has had to cancel a contract to procure a waste incinerator and we, the electorate, are £33m worse off. Yet even now, some NCC members seem anxious to keep open the possibility of a waste incinerator still being built in Norfolk.
Then we have the former RAF Coltishall site. (If NCC had wanted to honour its earlier promise to recognise the site’s distinguished heritage, it would surely never have renamed it “Scottow Enterprise Park”.) To date, NCC has committed at least £6m of money belonging to us, the electorate, to this venture. It now, in the midst of financial crisis, intends to commit a further £6.6m with no guarantee of a worthwhile return. This has always been a vanity project, intended to make a name for a handful of NCC members – with others more recently trying to jump on the bus – and it is clear to me that a great number of us, the electorate, are against it.
Finally, we learn that months and months ago, behind closed doors, the (then) NCC cabinet voted to give away to a charity £700k of money belonging to us, the electorate, and – I assume – keep quiet about it. Look at the response to that news. As a mere resident of Norfolk, I have long since given up trying to influence opinion in County Hall, and I don’t intend to restart the process. But a way must be found by someone to cause those who, within its walls, make crucial decisions affecting our lives to accept that they should listen to the views of those who elect them, not simply at election times but at all times in between.