Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Question of Balance

This post may seem a bit nerdy, but it's nerdiness with a purpose.

With the appointment of Padstow councillor Steve Rushworth to the Cornwall Council cabinet, a place has opened up on the Strategic Planning Committee - cabinet members are not allowed to sit on planning. It's interesting to see who might be chosen by the Conservative group to replace him.

Ideally, the membership of the committee should reflect Cornwall as a whole. There is a rule to enforce political balance and that means that there are eight Conservatives, six Lib Dems, six Independents and one Mebyon Kernow member on the 21 person committee. There is no formal rule about geographical spread, but you would hope that there would be a rough balance.

This is where the current membership falls down.

There are currently just two members from the St Ives constituency (one Lib Dem and one Independent). This compares with five from Camborne, Redruth and Hayle (three Cons, one Mk and on LD), four from Truro and Falmouth (three Indies and one LD), four from St Austell and Newquay (one LD, one Con and two Indies), three from North Cornwall (one Con and two LDs) and two (both Cons) from South East Cornwall.

So you would think that, to create a fairer geographical balance, the Conservatives ought to pick a member from St Ives constituency or South East Cornwall.

But no, the name in the frame (I hear) is another member from Truro and Falmouth. And, to make matters even more unbalanced, it is another member from the Falmouth/Penryn community. If so, that would mean that there would be four Falmouth or Penryn members on the one committee - hugely disproportionate.

Members of the strategic planning committee, as with members of other quasi-judicial panels, have to judge the applications that come before them on the basis of planning policy and planning law. Party political considerations should never come into it and neither should geographical. I'm sure that every member would claim that they don't. But it doesn't look good to see an already unbalanced committee becoming even more so.

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