Monday, 30 June 2008

An Interesting Meeting




Pictured: Councillor Chris Beverley with local activists and a number of non-politically aligned local residents outside the meeting to discuss the election of Morley's mayor.



Last night’s meeting to discuss the issue of whether or not Morley’s Mayor should be directly elected by the voters of Morley rather than by the politicians on Morley Town Council was a very interesting one that I think merits a quick report from me.

I have been to all kinds of meetings since getting involved in local politics, especially since I became a councillor, but I have certainly never been to one quite like this.

The convenor of the gathering, Albert Slingsby, began by asking the Mayor, Terry Grayshon, to chair the meeting (apparently this was required in the legislation governing such meetings), which was unfortunate in that Grayshon was then in a position to lead the debate in the direction that he wanted to.

Various arguments for and against were heard. These ranged from legitimate concerns (such as the possible cost to the taxpayer of a parish poll to let people vote on this issue, should the question in fact be taken to such a poll) through to self-congratulatory nonsense from the Morley Borough Independents. Former Mayor Joyce Sanders summed up the MBI argument rather well in her speech, which was something along the lines of ‘we MBIs are wonderful, we do a great job, leave us alone, how dare you nasty people disagree with us’ etc.

There was also talk about the allowances that a directly-elected mayor would allegedly claim, a pointless argument that implies that a directly-elected mayor would necessarily be able to claim allowances that previous Morley mayors have not. In any case, if the MBIs are against public servants grabbing lavish allowances, they should have a quick word with their city councillors and their leader in particular about the huge burden that their party represents to the local taxpayer.

Grayshon was the only MBI City Councillor (as opposed to the Morley Town councillors present) who was able to take an active part in the meeting. Our Morley South ward colleague Judith Elliott, was not allowed to speak or vote at the meeting as she lives outside the Morley Town Council boundaries (as do I), and Bob Gettings and Robert ‘£30,000+ a year from the taxpayer’ Finnigan did not bother to attend. The Former lives outside the town council area in any case, but the question was asked prior to the meeting whether or not Finnigan would even have been able to speak had he attended.

Finnigan, remember, has been the subject of much controversy recently (see http://www.morleyboroughindependentsexposed.co.uk/), and there has been a great deal of speculation about his domicile. Were he to have attended and attempted to speak, he would possibly have been challenged as to whether or not he lives in the Morley Town Council area. In the event, he did not bother to attend anyway.

MBI Councillor Tom Leadley reminded us all of the arrogant MBI view that rules are there for everyone else to obey but them. Despite not living in the Town Council area, he attempted to abuse his position and speak at the meeting. The chair appeared to have no intention of addressing this breach of the rules – which everyone else, including myself, has respected – but was told in no uncertain terms by the non-MBIs in the audience to sit down and shut up, which he begrudgingly did.

Eventually the motion was put to the vote. Albert Slingsby proposed it, and local campaigner Mike Mee seconded. The motion, however, did not actually mention a parish poll but simply called for the mayor to be directly elected.

The poor chairing of the meeting ensured that the votes for and against were taken in a haphazard way. More people appear to have voted in favour of the motion than were alleged to have done during the count, as everyone who backed the motion gave their names and addresses at the end of the meeting and there were far more than the 14 people said to have voted for the motion at the time of the vote.

It remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken as a result of tonight’s meeting. There is undoubtedly a strong case for the introduction of a directly elected Mayor in Morley, and the issue will no doubt be debated further in the weeks and months to come.

It is an unfortunate fact that the Morley Borough Independents have dragged the once-respected post of Mayor through the mud. They have cynically abused the position for their own political benefits on a number of occasions, for example by giving the title to one of their members who was due to stand as a candidate in the Leeds City Council elections the following year, thereby gifting him with a year’s free publicity in the run up to the elections. This is not what the position of Mayor is meant to be about, and if changing the system by which a mayor is elected will help to move away from such cynical cronyism then that must surely be a good thing for our town.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Councillor funds big improvements to local allotments

A slightly edited version of this appeared in today's Morley Observer and Advertiser:

Councillor funds big improvements to local allotments


Councillor Chris Beverley has funded a number of significant improvements to two of Morley’s allotment sites.


The improvements to both Cross Hall and Bridge Street allotments were paid for through his Members Improvement in the Community and Environment (MICE) fund, which councillors can use to fund projects that are of benefit of the local community.


Councillor Beverley said: ‘I am delighted to have been able to support these projects as I believe that both these allotments sites perform a very important service to our local community. The improvements centred around the need to make these sites more accessible and easier to use for all local residents, and in the case of Bridge Street allotments, to allow vital access for the emergency services should they ever need to into this site.


‘Funding these projects ties in well with our campaign to promote local food production. You cannot get much more ‘local’ food than vegetables you have grown yourself, or eggs produced by chickens kept on an allotment, for example. There are lots of benefits to be gained by producing our own food, and clearly allotments play a significant role in making this possible for a considerable number of people in this area.’


If you would like to apply for funding for your group or organisation please contact Councillor Chris Beverley by email at Christopher.beverley@leeds.gov.uk, by phone on 01924 820 946 or at Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

An Elected Mayor for Morley?

Here is the letter I sent to the Morley Observer and Advertiser for this week's paper. A slightly sanitised version was printed.

......................................................................

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in reply to the letter entitled ‘Electorate will not participate’ from Derek Bradley in last week’s letters page.

Councillor Bradley makes some interesting points. I regularly attend Morley Town Council meetings along with a few other local activists, and it is true that there are usually very few members of the public in attendance. The possible reasons for this are many, but I would suggest that the disgraceful behaviour of some of the Morley Borough ‘Independent’ councillors is one of the prime factors causing Morley residents to keep away from these meetings.

An example of such behaviour is the way in which the once non-political role of Mayor of Morley is now cynically abused for the benefit of the Morley Borough Independents Party.

This brings me nicely to the question of whether or not Morley’s Mayor should be elected directly by the voters of Morley. The Morley Borough Independents, of course, will claim that the current system is good enough, as it allows to choose their Mayor every year without the wishes of the voters of Morley being taken into account in any way.

The current system allows the ruling group on the council (currently the ‘MBIs’) to abuse the office of Mayor, for example by letting them select one of their members who they want to receive an increased level of publicity, such as a councillor who is soon to seek election to Leeds City Council and would welcome the extra publicity in the local press.

It has also allowed them to provide us with the spectacle of Terence Grayshon becoming Mayor, with Judith Elliott bizarrely claiming the title of his ‘Mayoress’. You could not make it up.

A direct election every year for the voters of Morley to choose their Mayor would clearly be more democratic than the current system, and in principle I would be very much in favour of such a move.

Perhaps injecting some real democracy into the process of electing our Mayor will inspire confidence in local voters and finally make them feel that the Mayor of Morley is someone who truly represents them, rather than just another career-politician using the office to promote themselves.

And who knows, maybe then we will see more members of the public at our Town Council meetings!

Councillor Chris Beverley
Morley South, Leeds City Council.