After three back-to-back meetings in Westminster, down to Winchester to a full meeting of the city council.
It was particularly interesting to see the Tories tieing themselves in knots about establishment of 20 mph traffic zones. While most of those that spoke appeared to be in favour of these (although some , while sounding positive, appeared to want to push them into bureaucratic long grass), it turned out that the biggest obstacle to their introduction was…. the Conservative administration of Hampshire County Council. The introduction of Homezones and 20 mph speed limits in residential areas turn out to be yet another area where the Conservatives running the county council are not listening to local people – not even their own local people!
I’ve been a big fan of Home Zones since I saw them in action when living in Germany in the 1990s. One of the country’s first home zones, the Five Roads Home Zone, was just outside the constituency I fought in 2001. They’re safer for children, better for the environment and rebalance the roads more in favour of pedestrians and cyclists. While obviously they shouldn’t be introduced without the support of local people, where there is that support, I’d like to see them introduced as widely and quickly as possible.
The other item of interest was the appointment of Cllr. Wood to take over the planning portfolio on the cabinet following the high profile resignation of Cllr. Lipscomb.
What was striking here was the desire of those present (both Conservative and Liberal Democrat) to be able to ask a series of questions of Cllr. Wood about his background and experience, but the inability of the standing orders to allow them to do so.
It struck me that this might be a suitable opportunity for US-style public confirmation hearings – perhaps organised via the scrutiny committee?
I would like see a greater role for confirmation hearings in both local and national government. It’s a greater need in national government where the link between quangos and the public often appears weaker than the link between quangos and their associated minister. My view of quangos for some time is that they should either be abolished, or elected, or the people on them confirmed in public hearings. The current situation where they are appointed by ministers with relatively little scrutiny is not adequate for a modern democratic society.