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Day: May 2, 2012

More on the Westborough Ward hustings and the cost of attending them

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece entitled Westborough Ward Hustings – That’ll cost you £2 about my stance towards the public having to pay to enter the Westborough Ward hustings that I would be taking part in a few days later.

This morning I spoke with the chair of the Westborough Community Association who put on the hustings and she was speaking for several of the members and board in not being exactly enthused by my stance on the issue. I think we had a good conversation and I think we understood each other but I thought it best to lay out exactly my position on this issue.

In principle I do not think any political meeting should require an entrance fee. I will not change my opinion on this and never will. Politics – or access to it – should never be reliant on money.

What I was not aware of at the time was that it would have been a usual meeting for the WCA which was given over to the hustings. The constitution of the association as written is that for all meetings non-members are charged £2 which is of course fair and I have no issue with this whatsoever. The cost of hiring out these rooms for these events always need to be covered.

So there must be a middle ground going forward. From what I was told it will be recommended that they do not run hustings any more – due in large part to my comments. I hope this is not the case. I thought the evening was well run and gave the people who turned up the chance to ask good questions and I believe they probably took away an idea of what all the candidates stand for by listening to their answers.

I know that during election time the council open up rooms in its buildings across the town for free to candidates and this could potentially open up an avenue to hold these meetings somewhere at no cost to anyone which would allow the public to enter for free with the association not paying a penny. This is just one way that both sides of the debate could move forward. There is also a possibility that the candidates could pick up the tab and put it down as election expenses but that is something that would need further investigation.

So there are ways that hustings could still be done and put on for free to the public with no cost to the association. With no election in 2013 it will be the best part of two years before another hustings could be put on. I hope in the intervening 24 months or so the WCA can work with the councillors and the council to find a solution to this issue.

I think it would be a great shame is the hustings disappeared as I do think they were worthwhile. I do hope that the association did not take my stance as a personal slight towards them as it most certainly wasn’t. It is just a point of principle that I do believe in. Should I pull off the biggest shock since Buster Douglas I will go to the next meeting and speak with them and happily drop a £2 coin (or two £1 coins – I can’t predict the make-up of my wallet).

I think that is all I want to say on that issue. If the WCA want to speak with me further on this issue then they have my contact details. I wish the WCA every success for the future even if as expected I will not be a councillor for the ward.

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