Councillor Blog - Martin Barker - March 2019
|Author: Cllr Martin Barker||Published: 4th March 2019 15:53|
In his latest blog for AboutMyArea, Martin Barker, ward councillor for Parkgate on Cheshire West and Chester Council and Neston Town Council, talks about why being politically independent is important to him.
Cllr Martin Barker. Photo by Bernard Rose
As an independent councillor, I am not usually preoccupied with what is happening in national politics. I prefer to concentrate on what needs doing locally, and there is plenty to do - such as getting planters in place in time for the growing season and ditches cleared on the marsh to reduce the nuisance from mosquitoes.
On this last point, many of you will have seen the national news item about the decline in the insect population around the world - which is a genuine concern; but we would settle for a reduction in one particular insect in the Parkgate area!
But my attention was attracted to the national scene not so much by the news about insect population, but rather by the behaviour of the political population at Westminster - and the growing sense that the political parties have failed. That seems to be why some MPs are now sitting as independents, so that they are free to tackle key issues based on conscience and personal judgement rather than following a strict party line.
That resonated with my own experience and my reasons for standing as an independent back in 2015. It is also reflected in my experience of chairing the Cheshire West and Chester Overview and Scrutiny Committee, in which I must judge issues pragmatically and not according to a predetermined party script.
In so many aspects of life people expect to be able to have a solution that suits them rather than one that has been decided elsewhere. In healthcare, holidays, food, travel and clothing - to give just a few examples - people want to make a personal judgement and choice. Big institutions such as the NHS, supermarkets, travel agents and department stores have had to adapt, and perhaps political parties will have to do the same and allow elected representatives greater freedom to respond to issues as they arise.
For me, the issue is always to judge what is the most useful thing to do to meet the needs of the people I represent - so that politics is about effectiveness rather than ideology. I think this is particularly important in local politics.
But such decisions are not easy and the important thing for me is to achieve a balance. This can be seen in the issue of the visitor economy in Parkgate. It is important for businesses and the health of the local economy that Parkgate is attractive to visitors, but that cannot be at the cost of local people enjoying their area in peace and comfort. Likewise, in travel and transport where most people use cars - so our roads must be of good quality and parking well managed. But other people either don't have access to a car or prefer not to use one, so public transport must also be considered as important. A balance between the two provides maximum flexibility and avoids congestion and parking problems.
There are few easy answers in politics or in life generally, but a sense of compromise and reasonableness goes a long way to finding a way forward that suits most people. The increasingly ideological approaches adopted by political parties seem to me to be divisive and - worst of all - completely ineffective. That is why I have enjoyed my time as an independent councillor and hope to continue to do so.
Councillor Martin Barker