Home Page For goodness' sake, will somebody just make a decision for once 21/02/14

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Hart of the Matter

This week I received through the post an envelope in which were the key ingredients for experiencing Groundhog Day Ė a list of questions from Suffolk County Council about traffic regulations in Haverhill town centre.

 

The last time I saw a questionnaire like this Ė on-line on that occasion Ė was as part of the Ďstakeholderí consultations last year, and I remember finding the whole thing so ridiculous I wrote something satirical about it.

 

Now, I fear, it has gone beyond ridiculous. It is not a laughing matter anymore. Which stakeholders are being questioned this time? Is it the same as last time, and if so what is the point of that? Are they different from last time, and if so, how can we be sure their answers wonít conflict with the last lot.

 

Still, at least we can be happy that there is one consistent element throughout all these sad and pointless proceedings Ė the presence of the lengthy gender, sexual orientation and religious belief section of the questionnaire.

 

At least we are going to know for certain about these vital clues to whether or not more traffic should be prevented from accessing the High Street. I wonít repeat what I said last time about the absolutely essential nature of this data for anyone making a serious decision on the matter....

 

At Haverhill Town Councilís meeting on Tuesday night, one of our Suffolk county councillors, Julian Flood, made a plea for everyone to tell him their opinion of the best solution for the high street traffic issues, because he is on the countyís rights of way committee and he will actually have to vote in the final decision.

 

In a way itís a pity that our representative in this crucial vote is not someone who lives in the town and experiences the high street every day, but fairís fair, he seems to be doing his best to get a handle on the situation.

 

I wonder if he will be asking those who present him with their opinions what their sexual orientation, transgender status or religious beliefs are. I doubt it - and thatís not because heís a member of UKIP, but because, as far as I am aware, he is not a certified lunatic.

 

What defeats me is why people elected to councils cannot be trusted to just make a decision and live with it. We elect people to do just that, so that we donít have to be bothered with the details of local government ourselves. There is no point in having a democracy if we then donít trust, or donít accept, the people we elect making these decisions.

 

If we donít like them Ė and there would be many in Recreation Road, Helions Park Avenue and Mill Road who have serious reservations about the latest proposal Ė then we can chuck them out at the next election.

 

But thatís four years away, you cry, or two years in this case, and in that time they could cause no end of damage. Well, too bad. Thatís what democracy is. Otherwise we will have to go back to Athens in the 5th century BC, and the initial system where we all have to turn up to a big field and vote on every single issue for ourselves.

 

Itís a bit like saying we canít trust a bank note to be worth £20 and we should insist on having the actual £20 worth of silver every time to make our transactions. The world would come to a grinding halt.

 

Instead, we choose people that we trust to carry out our wishes. And having done that we should then be content to let them get on with it. Thatís our side of the bargain. In return, their part of the bargain is that they make the decisions and live or die by them, politically.

 

Iím all in favour of them listening to what everyone tells them and taking it all into account, but in the end, when an issue is quite finely balanced, there comes a point where our councillors have to make a decision for themselves Ė and it will be one with which quite a lot of people will be very unhappy. That is called responsibility.

 

Of course, they need to take all possible advice from the officers whose job it is to put together the options available. But, again, there comes a time when all the advice in the world is not going to hide the fact that they, and they alone, have to make a decision.

 

As far as I can see, all that is happening at the moment is that both officers and councillors are trying to find ways of putting off a decision which may prove unpopular, costly, impractical or just stupid in the light of later events, whichever way it goes.

 

For all the criticisms that are thrown at our town councillors, at least they have had the courage to make a decision about what they think ought to happen and to stick to it, despite each new argument which is raised about the peripheral effects of it.

 

It seems to me that that is the job of a councillor Ė not to just do what the people want who shout the loudest, but to listen to everyone and then decide their own view and stick to it.

 

You canít ask much more from a councillor than common sense and consistency. If it turns out to be the wrong decision on a finely balanced issue, then a lot of other people were wrong too.

 

Rather that than spending our council tax on endless consultation and never getting anywhere because it canít produce a definitive answer.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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