'Prejudicial interest' rules make mockery of democracy

Christopher Booker's notebook

(Filed: 26/02/2006)

Thanks to a diktat from John Prescott, thousands of elected councillors have been shocked to be instructed by council officials that they are no longer permitted to represent the views of the communities which elected them. The bizarre consequences of this extraordinary bid to undermine local democracy are highlighted by four recent examples from just one county, Shropshire.

When Aggie Caesar-Homden was last September elected to Oswestry borough council, to represent the residents of the village of West Felton, she found herself at the centre of a local planning row. The parish council was up in arms over a 50-foot-high Orange mobile phone mast which had suddenly appeared on the edge of the village, blocking the view to the Berwyn mountains.

The villagers' objection was not to the mast in principle, but that its erection was in clear breach of planning rules. Of 10 procedures required by the rules for phone masts, nine had not been complied with. The mast was illegal. But when Councillor Caesar-Homden raised this on behalf of the parish council she was told by senior council officials that it was not her role to speak for her electors. Since she was now an Oswestry councillor, she must support her council.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/26/nbook26.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/02/26/ixhome.html
(excerpt)

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