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Dale’s Diary: Councillors must face performance reviews, and questions about Mr Tredinnick

Dale’s Diary: Councillors must face performance reviews, and questions about Mr Tredinnick

🕔09.Apr 2015

Four weeks today the people of Birmingham will elect a new batch of city councillors.

That is, those that can be bothered to register and to vote on the day.

What will the turnout be? With the benefit of the General Election on the same day, perhaps on a city-wide basis more than 60 per cent will participate, which is clearly a good thing.

Most of the 40 people elected will be ‘sitting councillors’ who have represented their ward for four years, or in some cases a great many years, who are seeking re-election.

No doubt they will knock on doors and attempt to persuade the people that they have done a fantastic job for the local community. But have they really? How do those who are not involved in the day to day minutia of politics, which is most people, know what a councillor has been up to?

The city council and the political parties do not operate any kind of public appraisal process. There is no benchmarking of councillor achievements and no method to identify the hard workers and the not so hard workers.

In reality, most voters will simply choose to back a candidate on party lines and not concern themselves over whether their councillor has performed well or not so well.

Birmingham city council is very hot on appraising the performance of its staff, and annual Personal Development Reviews are important in determining whether targets are being met. No such reviews are in place for councillors.

Why not try, in an idle moment, logging on to the council website and attempt to find out what you councillor has been up to. How many of the meetings they are supposed to attend have they actually attended? It would also be useful to know about a success rate in dealing with constituents’ problems. After all, every councillor is paid just over £16,000 as a basic allowance.

None of this information is available. It might, theoretically, be possible to trawl through the minutes of committee meetings to discover who failed to attend, assuming their ‘apologies’ were sent, but the time it would take to do this would leave most of us thinking of better ways to spend half a day.

When the size of Birmingham city council is reduced, probably from 120 to 100 councillors, as a result of the Kerslake Review, it will be important to make sure that the leaner council membership gets better training and support services. And just as the performance of local government officers is assessed, the performance of councillors should be assessed and reported back to their employers – the people of Birmingham.

Naturally, my suggestion that councillors be subjected to assessment has gone down like a lead balloon. Labour councillor John O’Shea took to Twitter to declare, somewhat pompously, that it is “up to the voters to decide” if councillors are effective and “if they choose to elect a useless or effective councillor, that’s their right”.

Tony Smith, the council’s policy executive, commented that electors are the “ultimate judge of performance”.

The fact is, though, that most voters divide on party lines and haven’t a clue about the performance or work rate of their local councillor. Most people certainly could not name their local councillor.

A brief break down of councillor performance would surely assist ‘the people’ in deciding where to place a cross the next time they visit a polling booth.

Chamberlain Files does not normally concern itself with political shenanigans in the East Midlands, but we make an exception in the case of the Tory MP for Bosworth, David Tredinnick.

The word is that Old Etonian Tredinnick, who was suspended in 1995 without pay from the House of Commons for 20 days for being prepared to take payments for asking parliamentary questions from a Sunday Times journalist posing as a businessman, may be in trouble at the General Election.

He’s represented the Bosworth constituency, effectively the Leicestershire town of Hinckley and surrounding countryside, since 1987 with majorities of between 1,000 and 5,000 votes. On paper this time, Tredinnick could benefit from a likely collapse in support for his main challengers, the Liberal Democrats. However, he is facing UKIP and also an unexpectedly bold campaign from Labour.

I’m hearing that the BBC has declared Bosworth the second most interesting constituency in the East Midlands after Loughborough where Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is fighting for her life.

Tredinnick’s Labour opponent is Chris Kealey, a local lad who is making much of having attended local state schools and is fighting on purely local issues.

Kealey’s back story is interesting. A former Foreign Office diplomat appointed MBE for his work in Afghanisatan, Kealey also enjoyed a stint with Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, liaising with their charities.

The uncertainty in Bosworth centres on where the Lib Dem votes go on May 7.

At the 2010 General Election Lib Dem candidate Michael Mullaney managed to secure 33 per cent of votes cast against 42.6 per cent for Mr Tredinnick and a disastrous 16 per cent for Labour. Back in 2001, though, the Labour candidate took 39.4 per cent of votes against 44.4 per cent for Tredinnick.

It could be interesting on May 7. Mr Tredinnick, whose faith in astrology is well documented, will no doubt have seen it coming.

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