The emotions of the Scotland referendum, believe it or not, have parallels that echo locally. One of the main complaints that the people of Scotland rightly raised is that there is a real and inequitable disconnect between who they elect and who they are governed by. It’s just as relevant here in Leamington as it is in Lanarkshire albeit on a micro-level.
Take the decision regarding Bath Place Community Venture (BCVP) in July. Despite the full and unqualified support and numerous interventions of local Labour, Lib-Dem and Green councillors in the wards BPCV mainly serves, the decision to deny the proposal was essentially made by two Conservatives. One based in Stratford and the other from Kenilworth. It’s amplified by the fact that the wider council and the local MP, on the whole, supported the plan.
In some ways the loss of the Old Library was an even more egregious example of a democratic deficit. A petition of 2,400 and over 300 objections to the planning application couldn’t halt the loss of the most historically public of spaces.
Party politics aside, local citizens and democratically elected members were ultimately powerless to halt the sell-off and privatisation of much loved local assets and the tragic end of a widely supported community project that has provided almost 40 years of benefits for local people and services.
If there is to be any talk at all of real devolution and true localism in this neck of the woods, what happened with the Bath Place decisions is a good place to start understanding the issues. Given the undeniable logic of self determination which the Scots have flagged not a moment too soon, it’s also a pretty good place to begin figuring out how to truly and adequately support and honour local aspirations and most importantly, empower vulnerable communities to help themselves.
Democracy, quite simply, cannot function if it doesn’t begin at a grass-roots level. The electorate of South Leamington, especially that of Old Town, have been badly disenfranchised by these recent decisions and it’s no wonder so many view Councils as out of touch and likewise, feel that voting in local elections has become a futile gesture.
Clayton Denwood, Gordon Street, Leamington