(also published March 11 2005 Henley Standard)
The leader of Oxfordshire County Council Cllr. Keith Mitchell refers to the threat to local democracy by the South East of England Regional Assembly (SEERA) proposals for economic development of the region.
Cllr. Mitchell, castigates this body, yet he fails to mention he himself is a leading member of the Assembly and is, in my opinion, part of an anti-democratic movement to fight giving the South East’s voters the right to directly elect their representatives to the assembly.
As for accusations over its lack of democracy, he forgets to mention that SEERA’s recommendations are subject to approval by our democratically elected government in Westminster.
As council leader he forgets in his pronouncements that he is there to represent the interests of all Oxfordshire residents, and not just those, who have made the mistake to vote for him. That means he should be fighting for the future prosperity of the country.
Logic would have suggested that Cllr. Mitchell would be fighting for plans for affordable housing and improving the economic infrastructure of the county. Instead he insists on supporting anti-business policies that hobble our region’s competitive edge.
As to claims that SEERA is some unaccountable body, in truth any study of the facts reveals two thirds of members are elected councillors, with the rest appointed to represent local interest groups from employers to charities.
As a democrat I find it not too puzzling that Cllr Mitchell should fight plans to bring direct elections to the assembly, after all he is a member of a party that fought against reforms of the House of Lords and establishing regional assemblies in Scotland, Wales and the North of England.
Is his real fear not concern about democracy but the threat that he will lose his position and power as leader of Oxfordshire County Council?