'Democracy in reverse' - Broads Authority slammed for plans to remove elected members
PUBLISHED: 12:35 21 December 2018
The only elected members of the Broads Authority could be cast adrift as bosses look to trim the size of its board - in what has been described as "democracy in reverse".
Currently the BA has 24 members on its board, a mixture of those selected by the secretary of state and one representative from each of the district councils in the Broads area.
However, a recommendation in its consultation response to Julian Glover’s review of National Parks suggests this should be cut back to just nine to 12 members - all appointed by the secretary of state.
It comes just a year after a peer review into the BA’s conduct suggested it work more closely with its stakeholders, in particular local authorities.
Paul Rice, appointed member for North Norfolk District Council, likened the situation to the recent turmoil within the Conservative group, which saw a vote of no confidence and a changing of leadership. Mr Rice recently resigned from the group and became an independent councillor.
He said: “It is democracy in reverse. It is a similar situation to the one that made me walk the floor at North Norfolk.
“The BA staff all do a fantastic job, but at the top they really do not seem to be following the peer review. It feels as though they are disengaging with local authorities and parishes, rather than engaging and that’s not good.”
Vic Thomson, appointed member for South Norfolk Council, said there was a feeling among some members that there is “an inner circle” within the authority which had created a disconnect with local authorities.
He said: “All other National Parks have local authority members and even members at parish level, but the Broads Authority is having none of that.
“The focus of all the main decision are on the water and the land - never on the people and I don’t feel this decision is going to be popular in the slightest.”
Including Mr Rice and Mr Thomson, the BA currently has nine members appointed by local authorities.
The seven remaining elected members are Mike Barnard (Waveney), Ron Hanton (Great Yarmouth), Gail Harris (Norwich), Lana Hempsall (Broadland), Haydn Thirtle (Norfolk County and BA chairman), John Timewell (Norfolk) and Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro (Suffolk).
Broad Authority response
Haydn Thirtle, chairman of the Broads Authority and himself a local authority appointed member, said: “The draft submission to the National Parks review was discussed at the full Broads Authority meeting on 23 November. The points raised during that discussion were then considered by the chairs group, made up of members that are both secretary of state and local authority appointees in order to finalise the recommendations.
“This recommendation is a suggested way of replacing the existing model which requires 21 members and based on historical circumstances that are no longer relevant. We need to create a financially efficient, dynamic and appropriately sized Board whilst retaining a suitable range of specialist expertise.
“Broads Authority members should be selected for their knowledge, skills and passion for the vital work in protecting and enhancing a nationally important wetland whilst maintaining navigation, not to represent a specific constituency or political interests. The process by which secretary of state members are recruited is a rigorous way of achieving this.
“This suggestion does not affect our ongoing commitment to engage and work with neighbouring authorities.”