Leader – Selective hearing

HC Crest

Local democracy is an intricate process.

Elections are held every four years, and between times consultations are used to take soundings on particular issues.

Neither process is entirely representative: turnout in Hackney elections has rarely exceeded 40 per cent in recent years, and research shows those who vote tend to be richer, better educated and older.

Mayor Glanville hailed his recent election victory as a manifesto mandate, but is this right when it reflects the preferences of a quarter of the eligible population?

Consultations are also problematic, as those who respond do not always represent the target audience.

The council frequently cites these results as a mandate. Yet when it suits, it disregards them as ‘not representative’ – words used by Cllr Emma Plouviez to dismiss the outcome of a recent consultation on Shoreditch nightlife.

What’s worrying is that the council spends scarce resources to produce unrepresentative results.

Proper market research might cost a bit more, but an expensive consultation that carries democratic weight is better than wasting taxpayers’ time and money.

The second issue is the council’s power to decide which results to disregard, and which to wave around as a mandate.

What about all the residents who believe they are fulfilling their democratic duty, only to have their views ignored?

It is incumbent on the Town Hall to get consultations right, and commit to abiding by their results.

Hackney’s citizens deserve no less.

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