WHY SHOULD elected councillors be paid out of the public purse to undertake overtly political roles, such as being chief whip to the ruling group on their town hall, when their primary duty is to serve their local community?
This is the question which goes to the heart of today’s report about the amount of public money – £8.5m and counting – which has been spent on creating political jobs that enable councillors to supplement their allowances.
It is a trend that is in marked contrast to the era when councillors served their parish, or town, out of a sense of public duty and civic pride. They did not seek remuneration (other than basic expenses) and they were non-partisan; party politics simply did not enter the equation. Contrast this with today when many councillors command the equivalent of a full-time salary and their decisions are driven by party political considerations, hence the need for whips to ensure motions are passed. Some regard this role as a stepping stone to a political career at Westminster.
It would be wrong to blame councillors for this state of affairs – the creation of large unitary authorities led to many councils taking on new responsibilities which have become more onerous with time.
Yet the partisan nature of decision-making is indicative of Britain’s broken politics and the prevailing apathy. Why should residents engage locally when their councillors often have pre-determined agendas? And how can the main parties win back the public’s respect when they are in the pocket of the trade unions – or that of the wife of a Russian oligarch?
As such, it can only be hoped that today’s findings pave the way for more independent-minded people to stand up to those career politicians whose motives do not always tally with the priorities of their constituents.
Time to halt classroom violence
FIVE LESSONS must be learned from the, frankly, shocking statistics which reveal a significant rise in the number of primary school pupils being suspended for attacking their teachers.
First, youngsters need to be taught to respect authority – including teachers. These are not isolated incidents; the
9,080 instances when youngsters aged five to 11 were excluded from lessons for physical assault are the most serious cases. They do not include those occasions when a child has threatened violence.
Second, classroom safety must be paramount at all times and the education profession needs to acknowledge, and understand, the vulnerability of teachers when they are challenged by youngsters who are at a stage in their development when they are physically imposing.
Third, what does this say about contemporary society – and the decline of parental responsibility – when pupils are prepared to lash out against the very people
who are trying to give these youngsters the best possible start to life?
Fourth, this is an opportunity for Nicky Morgan – the newly-appointed Education Secretary – to accept the fact that there is no substitute for experience and that it was wrong for her predecessor, Michael Gove, to encourage so many lessons to be taken by unqualified teachers.
Finally, this disruption must not be allowed to distract those youngsters who want to learn, and who regard their teachers as role models. Arguably, this is the most important lesson of all.
God’s own county
Wear your white rose with pride
IN SOME respects, the very concept of Yorkshire Day is an anachronism in a county with a proud reputation for modesty.
Why, some argue, should there be a call-to-arms on August 1 each year to celebrate all that is good about the county when every day on the Broad Acres is so special?
Nevertheless, there is very good reason for the white rose to be worn with even more pride 30 years after this ritual was started in response to the botched local government reorganisation of 1974 when parts of the Ridings lost their Yorkshire identity.
The successful staging of the Grand Départ has shown the world what Yorkshire can achieve when it puts parochial differences to one side and pulls together.
And the feelgood factor does not end here – the region’s sporting stars are basking in a golden glow at the Commonwealth Games while Yorkshire County Cricket Club is top of the County Championship.
They are sporting successes that prove, once and for all, that this is truly God’s own county. Happy Yorkshire Day.