In the last few days of the election campaign there is much talk of horse-trading, deal-making, dark rooms and red lines. And rightly so. With no obviously clear winner in sight, we should not expect the election process to end upon the declaration of the count. The process will have consequences in terms of how those elected seek to govern: how they engage with each other, with their electorate and with their wider communities. And, since Faversham Town Council has limited direct powers it also means working effectively with the Borough and County Councils.
This means negotiation.
So how should this process of negotiation take place? By seeking to obstruct or seeking to influence?
And should this influence be offered by threat or by assistance?
Should people seek to assist by shouting or speaking?
By speaking in conversation.
And what kind of a conversation should take place? A confrontational conversation or a constructive conversation?
A constructive conversation.
So while some of my fellow independent candidates have been brought into a to and fro about what has or hasn’t been said, or what they did or didn’t do – while the debate goes on as to whether people are to the left or to the right – or what their red lines are or aren’t…what I believe is needed, first and foremost, is to agree the manner in which we can work together, despite historic events and regardless of personal political positions.
And this does not mean removing the important principle of opposition. What matters is the manner in which opposition is made.
Whether we are elected or not – but especially if we are elected – I believe we need to cooperate.
I suggest we start with Faversham Town Council’s Business Plan for 2015-16:
1. Magna Carta
2. The Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan
3. The Guildhall.
As I have said in a previous post, I do not think that these priorities are sufficient. They are too centrally focused for a town with important edges; and too short-termist when people are thinking many years into the future.
So, what about:
– rethinking the unpopular, unsuccessful and unsightly yellow lines in the Town Centre
– introducing, perhaps through trial, a 20mph limit across the town
– creating more pedestrian crossings, especially over Faversham’s main streets
– providing more support for local activity groups like the Friends of the Westbrook, to add capacity to the Town Council’s outreach
– carrying out further development of Faversham’s business support groups
– restructuring the Town Counci’s committee structure to deal with the above, and to achieve more?
These are issues I, and my fellow independent candidates, have heard articulated by people we have spoken to in Faversham over the last few months. We do not have solutions for all of them, partly because we do not yet understand them all. But we do appreciate that each idea, from this list and others, should be looked at, discussed, developed, discussed again, dismissed, deferred or taken forwards through positive engagement. In an earlier post I have suggested how people can be engaged in a positive process to create future policy: a “Faversham Conversation”.
Where trust is lacking it needs to be created. Where it is weak it needs to be nurtured. And where it is abundant it needs to be disseminated so that the culture of debate is refreshed. Not about me versus you. But about us.
This future is possible. There is enough talent in Faversham to achieve it. What is needed is the artistry to take the raw ingredients of personal opinion and combine these to create a work of great power, elegance and resilience. Outcomes for Faversham that work well, last long and look great.
Who would not wish to work for that?