In May as regular readers of this blog will know I will be running for Southend Council. I’ll be running as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Westborough ward. We’ll see how that goes but over the weekend the aforementioned council managed to make it into national news in both the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail.
The story was about the council ensuring that councillors don’t get parking tickets for outstaying their alloted time in a pay & display bay. They are doing this by having all councillors cars number plates inserted into traffic wardens hand-held devices that will block them from giving out parking tickets to these vehicles in such a situation.
First of all again in the interests of openness I don’t drive. So even if I was to win in May this would not effect me one jot. However I must say the perception absolutely stinks. The days of people trusting their elected officials are long gone. Now the electorate want to scrutinise all the expenses and perks elected officials claim and receive and lets be honest here there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
Councillors receive council car parking permits that allow them to park in council car parks and council car parking bays for free. They are instructed to leave them at home when not on council business and they are trusted to do that. Surely that is enough? I’m not saying any councillor does cheat the system or even would think of doing so but the problem with politics these days is the gap between perception and the reality is just so vast that going through with ideas like this just make people think less of elected officials.
I have little doubt that no-one abuses these privileges of being able to park for free when doing council work. I think most of the electorate would say that is fair enough. Councillors are elected to represent the people of their ward and do council business so they will need to be out and about in town meeting these people and working for them. However just having the perception that they could abuse the system and then the added issue of being unable to get a parking ticket for overstaying their stay in a car park or pay and display bay doesn’t sound good. It doesn’t sound good at all.
I often hear that politicians are ‘all crooks’ from people and this kind of action does not help disperse this argument. I really do think Southend Council have dropped a right clanger with this one. All it does to harden up the perception that politicians are just in it for whatever they can get and in all honesty in 99% of cases nothing could be further from the truth.
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