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Shrinking Democracy in Ferndown?

When you look at the results of the Parish and Town Council elections held on May 2nd there are some shocking statistics regarding the decline of democratic participation across Dorset.

The lack of voter participation is bad enough and is down to below 30% in many places. But the lack of candidates for the role of parish or town Councillor is truly shocking.

The majority of parish and town councils have some or all of their Councillors returned unopposed. There are many councils with vacancies where there were insufficient candidates to fill the allocated seats. In Dorset on May 2nd twenty-one parish councils had nobody standing at all!

How does this relate to Ferndown Town Council?

Ferndown Town Council does not suffer the democratic malaise to the extent of these twenty-one parishes. But it does suffer. Of the fifteen seats on Ferndown Town Council, three were uncontested. We are lucky though. We have just enough people dedicated to the community  to fill the council.

So it seems strange that Ferndown Town Council has now decided to adopt a cabinet style administration. The Conservative majority will in essence remove from the rest of the Councillors the ability to participate in running the council.

Sending a message

What sort of message does that send to those who had stood up to contribute but are now effectively excluded?

They must ask themselves: What is the point of standing for election or putting yourself forward (especially when nobody else wants the job) when you know your views are going to be ignored?

Consensus Not Confrontation

Town and Parish councils are the vital tier one of our democracy. Very few adopt a party aligned adversarial methodology like cabinet control. Most successful Town and Parish councils are inclusive and run by consensus.

Why is Ferndown Town Council breaking with this?

Jim Bellamy the Chairman of South Ferndown Residents Association put it like this in a letter to the Dorset Echo:

“Last night, at Ferndown Town Council’s AGM, democracy took a big step backwards.
 Members of the public turned out in numbers in outrage at a council motion to move from the democratic traditions of “one councillor, one vote” to that of a government style where there is simply one party in power making decisions on policy behind closed doors, everyone else having to sit in opposition. Under this system there is no doubt that, whichever party is in power, government influence and policy will effect decisions made at local level, putting at risk the Council’s responsibility to always work in the best interests of the citizens of Ferndown.
There were impassioned counter arguments by the sitting Independent councillors, supported by clapping and cheers from the public, reminding the council that it was not in the interests of Ferndown and that it would only cause more division. Despite this the motion was passed by the majority Conservative party.
A large number of the public left in anger at that point expressing their frustration at what had just taken place.
The population of Ferndown DID NOT vote for this and the fact that this proposal was not on any Conservative election leaflet demonstrates that this was simply political manoeuvring  – something the public are heartily sick of. Having just lost council seats all around the country have they not yet learned their lesson?”

More information on the actual events of the Ferndown Town Council meeting that approved this reversion to an adversarial cabinet style administration can be found on the mags4dorset website here:

On This LINK

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