Frustration at lack of power growing

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LOCAL government reform needs may need to be the ‘next step forward’ – Castletown commissioner Paul Kennaugh has said.

He is frustrated at the lack of local authority power and plans to stand down, and not bother standing for re-election, at the island’s next local authority elections in 2012.

Mr Kennaugh made his comments at this week’s meeting of the town’s commissioners, after commissioner Andrew Thomas inquired about progress filling the seat vacated when Richard Ronan resigned last month. The local authority advertised the vacant seat, but no one came forward.

Commissioners’ chairman Colin Leather tried to encourage nominations. He said that now was an ‘ideal opportunity’ to join the board in order to try it out for a year until the local authority elections next year – when all commissioners surrender their seats at once.

Commissioners’ clerk Eddie Convery said Carole Sutherland, local authority unit manager at the Department of Infrastructure, asked whether they needed so many commissioners on the board?

Mr Leather suggested they continue with eight members until the election but was against making this a permanent change. ‘If we reduce for just this one reason it might be the wrong reason without proper discussion.’

Commissioner Carol Quine said it would save them the cost of re-advertising the vacancy, at around £800 to £900.

Commissioner Alwyn Collister said he would be opposed to permanently reducing the board size, but refused to explain why publicly.

Eighty per cent of the board is over 60 years of age, said Mr Kennaugh, ‘It shows there is no young blood, it is a bit of a concern.’

He added there was ‘no need’ for the current number of commissioners and suggested that the board is reduced to seven members.

‘We have no real control of what government does, we have got to go by their say,’ he said. He added their areas of responsibility such as housing and entertainment are run by sub-committees.

‘I wonder if the next step forward is local government reform, there is no interest in coming onto the commissioners, people really do not have any power at all. I have been seven years on board, I am frustrated, we cannot get anything done, if government says: “No” it is: “No”.

‘Local government reform has to be the way forward, bring authorities together for the south.

‘I’m so frustrated about how things have been happening lately I’m not going to stand at the next election, definitely not. We have not got the need to be here as nine people.’

He highlighted the positives of wider discussion seen from town and village regeneration discussions that have taken place.

Regeneration is a ‘very positive’ area said Mr Leather. ‘We had a very good regeneration meeting the other night, people from all different places everyone was discussing it, I thought maybe this is the way forward. We felt at the end we had achieved something.’

Mr Collister said he would believe regeneration when it happened.

‘There again, it’s getting out of control from us these things, that’s what worries me. We should have more say about what goes on in our town.’

The wisdom of regeneration was questioned by Mr Thomas while their are cuts in other areas such as the number of civil servants and in education. The commissioners will ask the government if it can operate with eight members until the election in 2012.

When Richard Ronan resigned last month, he said that the authority of the commissioners had been eroded so that the board had become ‘little more than a ceremonial body with nothing more than light administration duties within our sphere of influence’ and said he found it difficult to explain to constituents that ‘matters which rightly concern them, are often or nearly always outside of the commissioners’ remit, which make anything the commissioners decide largely futile’.

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