THE local elections approach with a need for some major change in which we, the electorate, can directly influence the local authority to ensure more accountability within the Town Hall.
As it is increasingly the practice for councils to elect councillors every four years I wondered why they didn’t also employ senior council officers, the chief executive and direct executive reports, on a fixed-term contract of four years.
This is one way of avoiding the ridiculous termination payments made when new senior staff are needed through the usual range of reasons from retirement to incompetence.
How to judge whether an officer has performed successfully? My brain latched onto the idea of citizen review panels. Registered electors could sign up to be a candidate for one or more panel and, when required, a random draw is made to determine the actual composition of electors, with a panel size of 11 to ensure a majority can be found.
Towards the end of the four-year term council officers can announce whether they would like a renewal and if they do then the person would stand before a public citizens review panel to explain what they have done for the benefit of Eastbourne and the future contributions they can make for the future wellbeing of the town.
The panel members then have the opportunity to question the person to test the quality of their case. If not convinced then the officer isn’t offered a new fixed term contract.
To ensure continuity I’d see the fixed four-year term being started one year after the normal council elections for councillors.
Nothing new in all of this as it goes on all the time in the USA for key non-elected officials.
The idea for citizen review panels is to encourage electors to get more involved in local affairs.
Random selection is so there is no overt political bias. People registering for review panels would have to state if they are a current member of a political party, and if they are whether they are an activist.
A review panel of 11 would have not more than four people who are registered members of a political party.