“It’s OUR County!” (IOC) is a new type of local political association which aims to engage with the local political agenda in a way that does not at present occur. It has NO party political affiliations on a national level and will work with whoever it needs to to get the best deal for Herefordshire. This will include a working philosophy of honesty, clarity and transparency – stating clearly what we believe in and why. The development of this group has come directly from local peoples’ exasperation at the current way party politics dominates the local agenda to the detriment of the county as a whole.
The current political system has been developed by the national political parties and favours their way of doing business. We believe this approach is fundamentally flawed and leads to bad decisions for Herefordshire, Hereford City & the market towns. Indeed, it is because of this party political approach that a culture of secrecy and control has developed within the administration of Herefordshire Council which is deeply unhealthy. National political agendas have driven the policy and decision making process and have left the communities that we serve wondering if they will ever be properly consulted about how their local taxes are spent.
Our experience has led us to recognise that being an “Independent” within the current political system is not enough. The so called Independent Group on the council (named Herefordshire Independents) refuses to sign up to a set of policies or beliefs leading to an inherent weakness in any opposition they might provide.
In contrast IOC aims to work within the basic structure provided by national policy but by breaking the hidden links between party political agendas and local decision making and by helping to free up and engage the energy, skills and wealth of local understanding contained within our community, aims to create a healthier and more effective ‘participative local democracy’ for the common good.
It is for these reasons that IOC has developed an early STATEMENT OF BELIEFS to explain clearly to the electorate what it stands for if they chose to vote it into office. This document should be read in conjunction with the IOC MANIFESTO.
HONESTY – being truthful, without manipulating the truth. Honesty requires acknowledging all of the facts, not just the ones that help our argument.
CLARITY – being clear about what we believe in and using language that is as accessible as possible. Above all avoiding the political “doublespeak” that appears to say one thing, but can be twisted to mean another.
TRANSPARENCY – no hidden deals and no backroom discussions. Consultation with the public should be genuine and not manipulated to get a particular response.
We believe one of the most valuable assets we have is the unusual nature of Herefordshire. It is a county that embraces the rich cultural and social variations of what it means to be ‘rural’ in a contemporary context; a deeply rural county with a low unemployment rate and a very high standard of living.
We believe this is an enlightened county that prefers to put quality of life before rampant profit and growth. Herefordshire has not joined the rat race and we should be proud of a slower more sustainable way of life.
Locally owned small to medium sized businesses are Herefordshire’s strong point. We believe that this strength should be prioritised when developing regeneration policies for the county. Herefordshire is good at doing many ‘small’ things well. By encouraging and supporting all those ‘small strengths’, in an integrated way, we can create a more vibrant successful county: A county that is also robust – financially, socially and culturally..
Given the highly unusual rural nature of Herefordshire, national political policy, which is generally developed by party politicians living in urban areas, is rarely relevant to a rural county such as Herefordshire. This results in inappropriate projects to attract inward government investment. We believe Herefordshire should be developing home grown solutions to our service delivery and infrastructure difficulties and then taking these answers to national government. The political parties currently running Herefordshire are incapable of doing this as they are, by their very nature, intrinsically linked to national policy development and national political agendas.
We believe that the current policy direction developed by the current political structure concentrates on Herefordshire’s weaknesses rather than our strengths. This has led to the much vaunted “growth agenda” which ignores our county’s uniqueness and will ultimately destroy it. Now is the time to stand up for what makes Herefordshire a great place to live in; to preserve and enhance what is important to us, to deal effectively with its problems and challenges and to develop it sensitively and thoughtfully through genuine consultation with all members of the community.
Herefordshire’s communities are remarkably resilient. In a world where “community” has been gradually degraded, the survival of our community spirit is another huge asset for the county. Despite this, we believe that the current political culture dominating Herefordshire Council is incapable of truly listening to or engaging with the very people that it professes to serve.
In the future community resilience is likely to become ever more important due to global and national financial and environmental challenges.
Driven by party political agendas and the inter-party culture of control, the political administration of Herefordshire Council goes through the motions of consulting with the people it represents, but then manipulates the results to fit the answers they want. This has led to widespread disillusionment and apathy when people interact with the council, with a generally held view, “They’ll do what they want anyway, so what’s the point?”
IOC believes the future success of local government depends on developing an on-going conversation between the different communities in the county and the people that represent them. Developing this conversation will be a cornerstone of our work.
IOC believes that an inherent part of our democracy is the turnover of councillors. Whilst we applaud some individuals’ commitment to many years of public service, the decades that some councillors serve mean that a controlling clique can develop. This is a cross party clique on Herefordshire Council and is deeply unhealthy. We believe that three terms of office (12 years) is enough and should be followed by a term of “real life” to re-connect councillors to ordinary life.
Nearly 70% of current Herefordshire Councillors are either retired or very close to retirement age. This is not representative of the real world and creates a weakness in the development of forward thinking and imaginative policies that we believe are necessary for Herefordshire. IOC will endeavour to attract more working age people to stand for office.
IOC would like to develop a much more strategic approach to local government which allows for many more full time workers to consider becoming a local councillor. We will aim to develop a working culture on Herefordshire Council that actively encourages people who work full time to participate as councillors.
IOC believes the working culture on Herefordshire Council should be more open and honest. Officers of the council should be encouraged to think innovatively and speak out without fear of reprisal.
IOC believes in localism. The development of new policy directions for the work of Herefordshire Council should always prioritise local businesses and people. The nature of Herefordshire as a rural unspoilt county requires this local approach.
IOC, by its very nature, needs to be a broad based organisation. For this to be sustainable, we need to operate with a tolerant and patient attitude. We will not always agree within our own ranks and management by consensus will be necessary, whilst preserving an individual’s right to disagree.