Jim Thornton's Election Blog - "Do we want Professional Politicians in Local Government?"

Submitted on Thu, 28/05/2009 - 8:56am

Tuesday 26 May 2009

My hero on the expenses issue is Peter Walker. The co-founder with 'Changi' Jim Slater of the investment firm Slater Walker, he eventually became Secretary of State for Wales. When I heard that he always paid his own way, even on official trips abroad, I immediately felt that this was the right way for me as well. To be able to speak and act knowing that you do not owe anybody any favours is really quite liberating. Somebody in the Market argued to me that over 65s should be required to do time in Partliament or a Local Council, free of charge, as part of their contribution to the community. The real issue is: what sort of politicians do we want? Do we want paid professionals? The problem then is that this is their livelihood, so losing an election is devastating; there is a great temptation to hold on to your seat at any cost. Do we want people in full-time employment? Do we want the retired? Do we want a mix? The problem at East Herts is that the semi-professionals want to have a paying job, whereas my view was that it could be done by amateurs. This view was reinforced when at our younger son Nick's graduation I sat next to the Leader of a District Council up North, a similar profile to East Herts, but in a higher category of excellence. He was senior partner in a law firm, and spent one afternoon a week at the Council, If he could do it, so can the Leader at East Herts. The suspicion is that work is created to justify the large allowances: is this really in the best interests of the Council tax payers in East Herts?

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