Published 26 May 2018
They say that every picture tells a story, and the two pictures here are no exception. The picture below shows a meeting of the Tustin City Council. As well as being my old home town, Tustin is a city in Southern California with a population of about 90,000 people. The picture above shows a meeting of the Hartlepool Borough Council (HBC). HBC is responsible for a town of about 100,000 people.
The top picture shows the 33 councillors (excluding the mayor) responsible for running Hartlepool. The picture above shows the 5 councillors (including a mayor) responsible for not only running Tustin but also the local fire and police departments.
The top picture shows HBC councillors with their backs to the public gallery. The picture above shows the councillors facing the public gallery.
The above picture shows a lectern in the bottom right corner where the public have the right to address the council on matters of concern. The picture above doesn’t.
Other differences that are not apparent are:
The Tustin councillors on the left receive NO remuneration for performing their duties. The councillors on the right have just voted for a 31% increase in allowances
The Tustin councillors can only serve a maximum of two consecutive four year terms before they have to stand down for at least one term. The HBC councillors have no term limits.
Property Tax (rates) for a five bedroom house with pool in Tustin is £1750 pa. Property tax for a four bedroom house in Hartlepool is £1700 per year.
Tustin City Council meet twice per month. HBC once per month.
Now I’m not saying that Tustin is perfect, it has it’s faults and, yes, they have been subject to central government cutbacks, but I would ask the following questions
Why is it that a city of 90,00 people can be run with a council of four elected members plus a Mayor whereas Hartlepool require 33 elected members and a Mayor?
Why is it that the Tustin Council welcome questions and comments from the electorate at council meetings whereas HBC make every effort to prevent public involvement at council meetings?
Why is it that the Tustin Council show respect to the electorate by facing them at meetings when the HBC disrespect the electorate by turning their backs on them?
Why is it the Tustin Councillors consider serving the community reward enough, whereas the HBC majority councillors have voted themselves an allowance increase of 31%?
HBC would do well to take a lead from other Councils and start providing both value for money and respect for the electorate. Some of these innovations could be introduced with a minimal cost, but would result in a significant improvement in relationship between the Electorate of Hartlepool and the HBC.
…and for the avoidance of doubt I am not suggesting HBC goes on a fact finding visit to Southern California !