UKIP’s solution on hot local issues? Hold a vote on them

Is there a better way? PETER STAVELEY, a UKIP candidate at next year’s Croydon Council elections, says his party would stage a public vote on important issues such as the incinerator

ballot boxWhen the controversial proposal for an incinerator at Beddington was given planning permission by Sutton Council this week, it was clear was that there had been little official consultation and there was a lot of opposition to the proposal from residents, especially those in Croydon.

It was also interesting that in the end, the councillors involved in the decision voted together in party blocs, rather than follow their individual feelings or even the feelings of their ward constituents.

All UKIP councillors are expected to vote for the best interests of their constituents, not just toe the party line. UKIP does not prescribe what they will do and there is no “party whip”.

There are, though, some general principles which UKIP councillors follow which are:

  • less regulation
  • smaller (local) government
  • retaining frontline services but making savings in administration and reducing bureaucracy

One of the complaints about the Beddington incinerator proposal was that voters did not have a say in the matter, let alone get a vote.

In this year’s UKIP manifesto for the county elections, the policy of local referenda was restated. Since that UKIP policy has existed for many years I am sure it will be in our manifesto for next year’s local elections in London’s boroughs, including Croydon.

The policy is that if there is a major decision to be made or there is a major planning and service provision, then those decisions should be put to a local vote. That way voters know that their wishes have been properly taken into consideration. The Beddington Lane incinerator is an example of the sort of case that would be classed as a major planning decision that would go to a local vote under UKIP.

I fully appreciate that holding a referendum could be expensive, so any sensible UKIP-run council would probably defer making those decisions (and holding a local referendum) until there is another election occurring.

Another UKIP policy is that if you, as a Council Tax-payer, do not like something that the council is doing (or not doing), then you could present a petition asking for a local referendum. The majority vote at that referendum would then be binding on the council, even if it means increasing the Council Tax or is directly against a manifesto commitment. However, the petition would have to have signatures from more than 5 per cent of the relevant electorate, so all those people must be on the electoral register that exists on the day of presentation. Naturally, the resulting ballot papers would include a short statement from each side, with the council outlining the effect of the referendum.

UKIP's Peter Staveley: no leaders and no whips in a UKIP council

UKIP’s Peter Staveley: no leaders and no whips in a UKIP council

To give you some idea of how it would work, there are around 262,000 people on the electoral register for Croydon. So to obtain a local referendum you would need more than 13,000 signatures, all of whom are on the electoral register and all with their correct elector number. And obviously, only signing once. So the chances of a rogue petition being created is relatively small. However, it is possible that experience will show that the 5 per cent figure might need to be reviewed.

Fortunately UKIP has some experience on this referenda policy because it runs a town council in Cambridgeshire, in Ramsey, near Peterborough. I say UKIP has experience; actually it does not have that experience because in the years that it has been in control of that town council it has never had a petition presented that triggered a local referendum, even though that policy was in their local manifesto.

One of the reasons that a local referendum has never been triggered in Ramsey is because by not having a party whip, UKIP councillors are heavily encouraged to have regular contact with their constituents by whatever methods their constituents choose to use. So UKIP councillors are more likely to know what the voters want without the constituents having to go to the effort of creating a petition. Of course, in their consultations with their constituents, the councillors would point out the downsides of any decision.

Obviously, the local referenda policy could only be put in place if UKIP is in control of a council. It is unlikely that UKIP would control Croydon Council in 2014. But who knows what will happen in 2018?

UKIP councillors in Croydon would still want to communicate regularly with their constituents and vote according to what the majority of their constituents want, rather than following any diktats from even their group leader, let alone what the party leadership might say.

The UKIP groups on the county councils have now elected their group leader but it should be remembered that the UKIP group leader is only there to help the other councillors; he or she cannot dictate how each councillor should or must vote. Even if the group leader states how they are going to vote, then there will be no repercussions if a UKIP councillor votes against their leader. Indeed, it is encouraged if they are doing what their constituents want.

In Croydon, the result of having UKIP councillors would be that you could no longer accurately predict the voting merely by counting the number of councillors in the chamber who are wearing a virtual red or blue jersey. A debate could actually sway councillors to change their vote rather than the current situation of it being a talking shop with a totally predictable vote.

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5 Responses to UKIP’s solution on hot local issues? Hold a vote on them

  1. Labour in Croydon held two referenda over two years on the Council Tax, though these were really just populist initiatives to advertise low council tax rises. In the third year, after a local council election, Council Tax was increased by 27 per cent and there was no referendum. The long-term damage to Labour’s reputation in Croydon of these referenda games were not worth the short-term gains, in my opinion.

    Referenda can be expensive. My recollection is that the Council Tax referenda cost £300,000 a time.

    I would guess that Mr Staveley’s argument is that the very existence of a referendum will discipline politicians to pay full regard to their residents and that referenda will not, in practice, be needed.

    Sometimes though politicians need to show leadership and not kick difficult issues or decisions off to the voters.

    Referenda can get abused. It’s often populist demagogues who resort to plebiscites to underpin coup d’etats – see Napoleon III (1852), Hitler (1934).

    There are places like California and Switzerland where popular democracy through referenda are ever present. Demerits of those referenda included the near bankrupting the state of California and banning minarets in Switzerland.

    With mainstream politicians loathed by voters, Mr Staveley’s proposal will, though, win votes in 2014 in Croydon.

  2. mraemiller says:

    If they cant even be bothered to find the staff for the General Elections how are the council going to find them for random polls…?

    Anyway we all know we are all going to get an incinerator no matter way because we are scum

  3. I immediately thought of “Consigli circoscrizionali” in my home town, particularly Article 23 that refers to non payment of people involved in the local steering groups. The members of the “consigli” may represent political parties or be independent. They cannot be elected Councillors.
    I will have to check on the status of the Consigli at this very moment and I am referring to the principle only.
    I am aware that there may be few Italian speakers in Croydon and, if anybody is interested, I will work on the document and present it to Inside Croydon for consideration.

    As of the date of the 2009 vote in the referendum, there were four minarets in Switzerland, attached to mosques in Zürich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangen bei Olten. Eight referendums were held in Switzerland during 2009. The first was held on 8 February on extending the freedom of movement for workers from Bulgaria and Romania. The next two were held on 17 May 2009 on introducing biometric passports and the “Future with complementary medicine” proposal. A further two were held on 27 September on increasing VAT and the introduction of public initiatives. The final three were held on 29 November on banning the construction of new minarets, exporting weapons and the use of aviation fuel taxation. Only one political party, the right wing Swiss People’s Party supported the minaret referendum which was approved by 57.5% of the voters and by 19½ cantons out of 23. Geneva, Vaud and Neuchâtel, all of which are French speaking cantons, voted against the ban (59.7%, 53.1% and 50.9% respectively). The canton of Basel-City, which has half a cantonal vote and the largest Muslim community of Switzerland, also rejected the ban by 51.6%. The voter turnout was 53.4%. Controversy is still going on.
    Cantonal zoning laws prohibit the construction of buildings that do not match their surroundings. Moreover, the call to prayer is issued five times each day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. In most modern mosques, the adhan is called from the musallah, or prayer hall, via microphone to a speaker system on the minaret.
    Muslims have freedom of expression and cult in Switzerland.

    Just observations.

  4. derekthrower says:

    It is amusing to hear what UKiP propose to do with power.

    It sounds like a form of proto-Anarchism: “If it moves, let’s have a vote on it, man.”

    It sounds in some form attractive until you look at the demographic of who is pushing for such reforms and no doubt they always save money(?). What are they smoking?

  5. UKIP: like herding cats.
    It will be interesting to see how the recently elected UKIP councillors cope with the pressures of power – they could suffer more fall-out than the LibDems at Westminster.

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