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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

I'm Getting Just a Bit Fed up with Unresponsive Councillors (and Thank You)

I'm not a Mr Angry. I don't seek to waste the Council's or Councillors' time. But I do claim the right to know what is being done in my area, in my name, with my money. And our principal route to accessing these democratic rights is through our councillors. My interest in them on this site is based on that alone - no personal axe to grind.

Having only recently had a little more time made available to me (well a luxurious lot really), I've switched some of my focus to what's going on around where I live and to try and contribute positively. This site is one outcome.

I'm also trying to establish some foundations for change and one of those is to understand what is being done and why. The occasional Freedom of Information request has been one route (although even there I've ended up having a phone call with a hard pressed council officer and withdrawing the request because it seemed like it would cause undue work - I don't aim to be difficult). The other key route has been to make requests for information or explanation to councillors.

I have to say that, with a few exceptions, I have not be impressed with their responsiveness. I try and rationalise and understand; they're busy people, they have other commitments, they have to prioritise, etc. But when it all comes down to it, they remain our principal route to the access of information about critical issues that affect our lives.

I'm half-minded to set up a spreadsheet and track councillor responsiveness to my mails and invite others to contribute. But I'm not sure I'm quite there yet. But I do think I'm at the point when I want to pose the question, What do we have a right to expect of our councillors?.

In our work lives, we're pretty much all held to some sort of performance contract. Probably in the majority of cases this is underpinned by contracts, role descriptions, competency frameworks and so on. In other words both sides have a clear idea of what's expected. I have no idea of what that set of expectations is between councillor and resident/voter. What do I have the right to expect of them? What do they have the right to expect of me (notwithstanding an X in the box every four years)?

We have, I think, six councillors as members on this site. That's all the Harringay & St Ann's Councillors, apart from Councillor Haley, plus one from another part of the borough. Perhaps one, or several of them, could answer my questions?

1. What's the contract between you and I?
2. Does anything already exist that might make that clear to me?
3. If not, do you think some sort of statement of expectations ought to be formulated to help both you and us to better understand and measure expectations?
4. Would you be prepared to be held accountable to it every day you're in office as well as at elections?


And finally, thank you to each and every councillor for the good work that you do. I genuinely appreciate it. But please take note of this issue around communication and accountability and come back to me (and the other site members) on the questions I raise.

Tags for Forum Posts: accountability, councillors, democracy, emails, letters, responsiveness

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Umm....it's a week since I posted the above.......and........ummm.........ahem.........no response...........
I'm having the same problem, but recommend Councilors Bob Harris,Karen Alexander, Carolyn Baker and Dasos Maliotis the Neighbourhood Manager
Before I begin, I have to say that I been very impressed with the speed with which both Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker respond to my emails and the feedback that they give me on various issues that I have emailed them about.
However, after reading this and noting that not one councillor has responded to this, I would like to know if there are any general undertakings by councillors to answer people by a certain time written down anywhere as there are on council workers, or whether it is entirely down to individual councillors as to whether they respond and within what time frame.
One effect of initiatives like the Local Charters would be to remind residents that our councillors are in fact our 'local champions' and our 'community leaders' elected to 'put forward proposals to improve their ward' (Haringey website) and our main avenue for improving grass roots local democracy. Some, it would seem, get very tied up it would seem in the other part of their role to "make policy and take decisions on the council's budget, council priorities and how the council should be run." (Haringey website) and neglect the part that most people expect when they vote for them, to represent and just as importantly champion their ward. I suggest it is this 'championing' aspect of their work that help people make up their mind about who to vote for in elections, not how many planning committees they sit on or how many surveys of satisfaction they commission to tell people how well they are doing or how many tough talking statements are released to the press which seem to be followed up by very little in the way of real action.
Can I just add to this comment that my praise for Karen and Carolyn are not related to my voting patterns/political views but because one of them always shows up to the LCSP meeting and so have taken on an issue I raised at the meeting and because a fellow resident of my street recommended writing to Karen about illegal conversions.
I am assured by those who have dealt with her that my other ward councillor is also very good but since she has not yet attended an LCSP meeting, I have yet to meet her.

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