Letter: Wrong people in the town hall

Sir: Christian Wolmar ("The little people of Paisley", 23 August) believes the way to prevent such incidents of "small-town corruption" as are alleged in places such as Doncaster, Hackney and Renfrewshire is to implement proportional representation.

Certainly, PR would cause administrations long accustomed to holding office in either Labour or Tory strongholds to adopt a more conciliatory and open style. But do political parties have a role to play in town hall politics any more?

A glib look at the situation in Hackney (with which I am painfully familiar) will show that party political or ideological differences count for nothing. By far the most pressing issue is finding candidates who are prepared to sacrifice their careers for the onerous joys of public office. Is it any wonder that places like Hackney are governed by the

retired, the unemployed and the insane?

One way of improving matters would be to create a situation where employers would again be proud to see their employees elected to public office - paying councillors' expenses direct to the employer might make the prospect more appealing.

We should also look to the wealth of examples of local partnerships of service users, businesses and other stakeholders who manage local services directly. This type of partnership arrangement is being vigorously pursued by many local authorities (including Hackney) irrespective of political allegiance. Perhaps it is time for recalcitrant local authorities resistant to this style of democracy to be forced down the road of the "enabling" as opposed to the "controlling" local state.


(London Borough

of Hackney, Labour)

London E8