Giving Resident's the right to sack their Councillor
Rebuilding trust in politicians is a long-term task and one that requires both politicians to be brave and give the people the tools to hold us to account as well giving residents a greater voice in the running of their Council. In Kingston we have had our own recent examples of a Councillor who for a year attended the minimum number of meetings possible to fulfil the legal obligation. Not only were the Councillors residents not being represented in decisions but the Councillor was also taking his allowance.
Recall of Members of Parliament has been passed into law. Zac Goldsmith MP has long been a proponent of Recall as a democratic means of holding to account elected politicians when they do something that is fundamentally against the principles of behaviour as an elected member. The current scheme for MPs has many flaws - not least that it is a committee of MPs who decide whether their colleague should be subject to recall. I am now pleased that both our MPs have agreed to support Kingston Council in introducing this Local Government system.
In addition we will be launching a campaign calling on other Councils to consider adopting this system and will be discussing with Ministers whether there might be some consideration for legislation to introduce this system on a statutory basis.
It is proposed that in the following situation members would trigger a proposal and petition for recall:
Attendance at meetings over a municipal year being less than 20% of those at which the member was expected at the point at which a petition is started
Attendance at less than two full Council or neighbourhood committees within a year
Conviction of a crime for which a prison sentence has been imposed and the appeal period has expired without the sentence having been overturned
Moving their main residence outside of the Borough
This cannot be forced upon any member as that would require legislation. It is therefore proposed that this is adopted as a non-statutory protocol which members are requested to sign at the earliest opportunity upon taking office.
We would need to make provision for genuine illness but in a sense we need to trust the residents to avoid abuse of this.
The basic elements of the scheme would be that if one or more of the above criteria were met the Council’s Monitoring Officer (not Councillor led) would consider the circumstances and whether a petition should be launched on the Council web site calling for the resignation of the Councillor concerned. Once launched such a petition would be live on the site for a period of three months. Where at the end of that period a number of electors equivalent to 33% of the number of registered electors in the Ward on the day the petition was launched have validly signed the petition, there would be an expectation that the Councillor concerned would resign thereby triggering a by-election in which they could, of course, stand if they chose. If this had statutory weight there would be no requirement for the Councillor to consider their position, he would simply be removed and a by-election called.
Residents put politicians in power and then power is exercised by Politicians on Residents behalf. But this means that when Politicians behave badly, Residents must have the tools to take that power back and give it to others.