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Better governance needed in Exeter and UK

July 22, 2022 1:05 PM
By Adrian Fullam

Exeter City Council is struggling with a variety of issues at the moment. We are told that Exeter is thriving, but this is passing by our public services with failures increasingly evident. The Echo (23/6) revealed that the Council is 'way off track for emissions cut' according to a University of Exeter report. Meanwhile, bottle banks are again overflowing, the St Thomas splash park was out of action for weeks and brown bin collections are being skipped again. The remaining public bins are frequently overflowing and our streets are increasingly littered. The announcement of the demolition of Clifton Hill Leisure Centre is a reminder of the loss of facilities and the closed public toilets dotted around the city remain as a picture of decline since Labour took over a decade ago following their high profile campaign to keep them open. The grand plans to regenerate the old bus station site have stalled with a £1 million cost to mothball the site. The Council has also stepped in to buy the Guildhall Shopping Centre from private operators. Let's hope it works out.

Whether it's simplistic local Labour promises of spending such as the city centre pool in Exeter, or cavalier national Conservative pledges of tax cuts - these plans of course have a cost. In our dysfunctional form of democracy these are hidden away. In a better world, we would have open, self-aware, representative administrations that could open the debate to weigh up the pros and cons. Tax cuts or big projects mean other taxes rising or service cuts elsewhere - but we hear little of the costs, never mind justification of them.

Here in Exeter, there is a withered scrutiny system. The Labour party smashed years of convention of Opposition Councillors leading scrutiny, instead installing Labour members as a form of patronage which has had the effect of supressing scrutiny to irrelevance. Does anybody know either of the Scrutiny Chairmen on the Council? We need robust and realistic stress-testing of Council decisions as it faces many challenges over coming years. Labour Councillors are not individually malign, but their group-think monopoly needs to be broken up at the earliest opportunity.

From L to R: Adrian Fullam, Ed Davey, Jamie Horner

Liberal Democrats like me are passionate about proper democracy that reflects society. For years this means we have turned away from the shortcut to power with Labour and the Conservatives. However, the recent Liberal Democrat win in Tiverton & Honiton which shattered a complacent Conservative 'stronghold' has underlined strong growth in support of our way of doing politics both in Devon and nationally.

Ultimately, we need to change the system, so that minority factions are not perpetually dominating Councils and our government. It is no surprise that Conservatives and Labour alike oppose electoral reform for their mutual benefit. I encourage people to support and join us in the Liberal Democrats to accelerate this essential change to get responsive and robust governance.

Adrian Fullam
Exeter Liberal Democrats
4 Berkshire Drive

07855 979917