Sunday 13 March 2016

If Councillors Don't Lead, Who Leads The Council?

As the winter-that-never-was finally ends thoughts inevitably turn to spring, the season of rebirth, of fresh growth, the all-important second step into the new year.

Or it does, presumably, for people outside of Carmarthenshire County, where nothing ever changes and time is a delicate illusion, where you can step into a shop and buy a shiny new iPhone only to drive half an hour down the road and find network coverage more equivalent to the 90s. Possibly the 1890s.

Or perhaps even further back. In light of the council’s continued refusal to acknowledge the auditor’s rulings against their unlawful payment of tithes of public money towards Mark James, perhaps the good old jail is still under the rule of fickle feudal lords, throwing their weight about with no concern for who they crush underfoot.

Ah, Mark James. As CEO he is always there, presumably just following orders . There’s not much I can say about the man, not for lack of information, you understand, but simple self-preservation. Despite what his weathered appearance would suggest, Mark has skin like the most delicate moth’s wing, and would I am sure have no qualms about taking an unemployed disabled person living off increasingly measly benefits (that’d be me) to court for the slightest of insult, where his highly-paid lawyers would trounce anything my £58/week income could manage and leave me financially mutilated for the better part of my life before sending the legal heavies over to take what few possessions of worth I have. You can say this much about the man: he doesn’t let compassion get in the way of being a good civil servant.

Mark may have an ego that far, far eclipses his skills and in my opinion the council should never have thrown bad money after bad on him as often as they have, but make no mistake; like the malformed, fleshy mole that springs up overnight and swells greedily as it feeds off the blood of its host, he is merely a symptom of the cancer within.

You see, there is one thing that Mark has that his elected colleagues don’t: a position of authority. You’d think it’d be the other way around, but then I’d invite you to think again. What is a council, really? A collection of people elected, not hired. Nobody handed in a CV, there was no vetting process for talent or skill. They were voted in because they talked nice, or had the right colour rosette on, or because they reminded you of your friend Dave and Dave’s a solid chap.

And why are they there, for their part? Because their friends told them they’d be good at it, or they happened to be in the right place at the right time when their party needed a candidate, or because they wrote an angry letter to the paper once and mistook annoyance and verbosity for political charisma, or because it was in the family (that’d be me, again). Oh, there’s the spark of something, the ashes of what once might have been an activist’s fire, before the battenberg and the pints got to it, but like most of us, many are there because they’re There and don’t know quite how to stop.

And even if there’s still a few embers smoldering there, a bit of rage at injustice and inequality… well, we’ve all shouted at some unlucky elite sportsman on the telly that “even I could’ve made that shot!” but that doesn’t make it true, does it?

Getting into the job doesn’t mean you have the first clue how it works. You’d be hard pressed to find a degree in law, economics, even sociology between any given dozen of them. They’re not handed textbooks at the start of term and told to get through them by the holidays. They’re middle-class by nature if not birth, old and tired. Most of them don’t know real, crushing poverty, or unemployment that lasts for years, not months, or what it’s like to face down bigotry on the street or in your school or from a police constable. And if they by some miracle have, it’s life experience that’s years out of date by the time they settle into those comfy leather pews and expenses.

At worst, they’re completely ignorant. They look nice on a glossy leaflet but they think Nye Bevan is a sort of bread loaf and quantitative easing is how you get a fat person in and out of bed. You wouldn’t trust them with a child’s plastic scissors and now they’re voting on your health and social care.

Even the better ones can’t know everything, and they’re not encouraged to try. They get handed a fifty-page book on the new school plans and their eyes glaze over as they struggle through the terminology, the diagrams, the two hundred year-old legal jargon. And they realise, all too late, that they are out of their depth, and in two weeks they need to make a decision that could make or break a small town they’ve never been to, whose name they can’t even pronounce.

And in their panic, they look up for guidance, and there are the Mark Jameses, who’ve read all the books and know how the system works, and they smile reassuringly, and tell them which way to vote, and say it’s all going to be okay.

Ari Caiach-Taylor

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment which will be display once it has been moderated.