Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Marple democracy in action

My fascination with the workings of local government and politics took me to the Area Committee meeting at Marple Library tonight. Usually such meetings are small and sleepy affairs. Some have no members of public present at all. Marple's is usually quite well attended - about 40 people were at this one. There were a couple of presentations - one on woodland and the other on the long term Vision for Marple by Gillian from Marple Civic Society.

The most controversial aspect of the meeting was a presentation by one of the officials on the use of A Frames outside shops. There is a proposal that these be registered and licensed at a cost of £70 each. The reason? the council are concerned that they may be liable if there is no scheme in place when some tricky lawyer comes knocking with a stack of personal injury cases.

Understandably the businesses present were appalled at another burden when they least need it. But the councillors seemed sympathetic enough. One of them however proceeded to lecture local businesses on the best ways they could advertise cost effectively on the internet and in local papers - instead of using these advertising boards.

It seems a mundane and trivial issue, but the promise to look again seemed genuine as did a call for a formal response from Marple Business Forum to introduce a voluntary code.

Did it make me any more convinced about the need for non-partisan representation at a time of critical community need? No, not really, but it did reinforce the view that while they may be hugely committed to their local community needs, councillors have to play a daily game of cat and mouse with professional bureaucrats who have a need to meddle. Some cope with that better than others, and the closer they are to the party machine, the harder it is to do that.

No news on the supermarket developments - Asda have yet to submit a plan. The deadline for expressions of interest on the Chadwick Street site is this Friday.

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