Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Listening to Learn.

The written representations have now been submitted to the Clerk of the Parish Council, Mr Andrew Mallinson and the process was finalized and witnessed at the Parish Council meeting last night.  I now trust that the Parish Council will execute their legal duty in support of our statutory claim.  As this chapter of the allotment saga draws to a close I would like to make a few points that I think are worth some consideration generally, though I do so as a personal opinion and not as a spokesperson for the "Allotment lot" or any other "Group" for that matter. Though I would encourage any group of people that feel they are not being represented the way they would like, to fight their corner - that is both the essence and the crux of democracy.  Best summed up by Montiesquieu:

"The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."

I have been waiting for an allotment for well over 5 years and it has taken me almost a year to go from being jostled around on the aptly named "waiting list", to making written representation and in that time I have gained new knowledge, experience, allies & insights.  Looking back over the whole process reveals a picture that, although tied specifically to the subject of allotments, suggests something about an attitude in local government.  I'd like to share the essence of that insight for consideration by anyone involved in or becoming involved in community issues on a local level.

Unfortunately the subjective opinions of local government officials have been all to regular, and more disturbingly adversarial, throughout this process. I wonder, is this a common attitude in the work of some public servants? Some quotes that spring readily to mind include:

"I don't see a need for allotments in Cowling"

"Allotments in the past round here have looked like Soweto!"

"I don't understand why people want allotments when food in the supermarket is so cheap."

"I'm sure it'll just be the allotment lot that will turn up!"

"Have you thought of buying your own land?"

I'm sure it's not all gravy working in local government and I appreciate the need for officials to be adversarial in an objective manner during their work. After all someone has to stand against those that would have it all their own way in society - on the behalf of taxpayers, whilst we're out earning those taxes. Otherwise we might end up with certain people, groups or companies constantly getting widely unpopular decisions called in their favor by local authorities.  Or promises and agreements made by certain, people, groups or companies, (in return for local authority support) not being honored; placing a burden on the community.  But why be subjectively adversarial with the people you want to represent when they invoke their rights?

Why challenge people claiming something both the Crown and Law Lords have decided is a lawful right of the people and have maintained for a hundred years?  Do some local government officials think their personal opinion is beyond the law or the reasoning of the Crown?  Do such subjective view points often over shadow the work of these people?  Is there a common purpose at work here? There's certainly been an all too common disdain shown towards allotments and those wanting them!

Maybe a less judgmental attitude would cut the filibuster in meetings. It might even free up some of their valuable time spent away from their families in the execution of their civic duty. Maybe then the Parish Council could focus on the more thorny, contentious and debatable issues that really would benefit our community from the power of their judgmental appraisal!

We live in a "civilized" society.  We are not governed by the law of the jungle, by the tyrant, the weapon of the warlord, the fear of opinion, by anarchistic consensus or spiritual guidance; but by the law of the land.  A common law, with legal statutes, that sets out a framework within which society functions fairly. This enables stable trading, working, living and recreational environments for the benefit of society as a whole.  The law is not subject to the whims, fancies, snoots or opinions of individuals; it is objective, whatever you care to think, who ever you think you are!

Responsible individuals in society accept the law as a common baseline.  As a result we agree on and work within basic contracts. I agree with you to do a job for payment - I can expect payment from you on completion or use the law to enforce my rightful claim.  I want clean, well lit & safe streets - I pay taxes to pay the wages of those that see to it I have clean, well lit & safe streets or use the law to enforce my claim against the negligence of those I entrusted.  

Essentially - Responsible members of society accept Duties & Obligations in return for Rights & Returns.  Those are the most basic rules of a civilized society, as I see it.  Claiming your rights is not taking something from society - it is claiming that which you have already paid for by accepting your obligations & duties.  

Anyone in public office arrogant enough to let slip their judgmental opinion aimed at those claiming their rights would do well to consider their professional integrity and motivation.  Or maybe just reflect on the words of the 'Bard of Avon' - "Lawless are they that make their wills the law".

Ultimately, it does not matter what any local government official thinks when I claim my rights; regardless of their office, experience or political persuasion.  What does matter is that they act in accordance with the Duties & Obligations they accepted when they decided to represent their community, along with the Rights & Returns that are so easy to accept.  

If I want an allotment, it doesn't matter if I already own land, plan to own land, sold land or rent half a moor - If I claim my rights correctly, I place a duty on my local authority representatives to provide me with an allotment.  

Just as: 

If the local government wants funds, it doesn't matter if they save them, spend wisely, squander them, or embezzle them - if they claim their right to funding from me correctly, they place a duty on me to provide funding.

Swings and roundabouts.

Back to the Parish Council Meeting
It would seem, according to the Parish Council survey, that there is clear demand for allotments in Cowling; unlike the clear opposition to further housing development. More in fact than came forward to join our group or the allotment waiting list.  I wish them all the best in making their claims.  

Still, there was lots said during the meeting that was interesting. The Chair alluding that allotment provision is high on the agenda, and it sounds like it will be treated with "due gravitas"  and "seriousness" by the Parish Council. 

Hmmm.. Should I start looking for a shiny new spade and start doing crunches in preparation for the double digging? Or will this keep until the shops go quiet during the olympics? 

Not sure, so best just keep a close watch on developments.


If the Parish Council is struggling to convert the minutes in order to make them available online - I will volunteer to convert them, so the person keeping the website up to date can also keep the record of minutes current.  I can be contacted at the email address below.

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