In January, like most of my fellow Common Councilmen, I received an e-mail from Naomi Colvin of the City Reform Group, asking me to sign up to what she called ‘our Pledges’. These were listed as:
1. We will promote commerce within the City on the basis of its ability to serve its customers.
2. We will allocate resources in order to promote fiduciary standards and responsible business practice.
3. We will not be afraid to speak out when we encounter practice that falls below the highest standards.
4. We will recognise our responsibility to the common good.
5. We will administer the Corporation democratically, efficiently and accountably.
6. We will be open and transparent in all our dealings
7. As elected officials, each year we will publicly report on how we have met these pledges.
Here is what I replied today:
Thank you for your message in January. As you will see from the publication of nominations today, I am indeed standing for re-election on 21st March. As a Common Councilman, I am fully signed up to the Members’ Code of Conduct which includes adherence to the following General Principles for standards in public life:
Selflessness – members should serve only the public interest and should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.
Honesty and integrity – members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.
Objectivity – members should make decisions on merit, including when making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits.
Accountability – members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.
Openness – members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.
Personal judgement – members may take account of the views of others, including their political groups, but should reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions.
Respect for others – members should promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, and by treating people with respect regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. They should respect the impartiality and integrity of the authority’s statutory officers and its other employees.
Duty to uphold the law – members should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in them.
Stewardship – members should do whatever they are able to do to ensure that their authorities use their resources prudently and in accordance with the law.
Leadership – members should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.
I will of course continue to abide by such principles if re-elected (&, indeed, if not re-elected!) & do not feel it necessary to sign any further ‘pledges’ drawn up by a grouping of which I am not a member or connected to in any way. If any of the electors of my Ward of Farringdon Within wish to discuss anything they would like me to pledge myself to, that would be a different matter, as they are the people I am here to serve.
With best wishes,
Common Councilman for Farringdon Within
3 thoughts on “City Elections 2013: ‘Pledges’”
Virginia, can you steer me to the minutes of the Common Council meeting where you demanded the full and itemised publication of accounts for the City’s Cash? If you can’t, then it seems to me that you have transgressed several of the principles you have laid out here. No other local authority in the UK would expect to disburse approximately £65,000,000 a year without making public full and detailed accounts. For instance, the Overview of the accounts tell us that the “£8,300,000 was given in Grants And Other Activities” but cites only two grants, totalling at £30,000. Without full accounts open to the public, how are we to know that some of those grants weren’t paid to the friends, family or businesses belonging to Common Councillors?
While I have some sympathy with the desire for full accounts of City’s Cash to be published, and can certainly see no reason why details of grants shouldn’t be provided, my first priority is to represent the residents and workers of Farringdon Within and deal with their concerns. I am not a Common Councilman, or seeking re-election as such, in order to grandstand and make ‘demands’ at meetings of the Court. Neither would that be the most effective way to get things done, as you would discover if you got elected yourself.
The City of London Corporation is not ‘any other local authority’. It is a Corporation which, as part of its work, fulfils the functions of a local authority. The fund known as City’s Cash, however, is not connected with its work as a local authority, so in this sense your argument is a spurious one.
Really, Virginia, your complacency is quite remarkable. It is quite possible to attend Council Meetings and move a motion (for instance, seeking better and more accountable behaviour) and, at the same time, attend to the concerns of your constituents. One can do both!
The very fact that Council Meetings currently last less than a lunch-hour shows how little attention the entire cohort of councillors wishes to give to good, local governance. When I was previously a councillor, in the London Borough of Lambeth, Council Meetings lasted several hours, with serious and useful debate.
And does it not occur to you that maybe one of your constituents’ concerns might be what happens to all that money? Have you polled them? My guess is that if you did, you would find an overwhelming “We want to know” vote. Otherwise, how else can they be sure that the money isn’t being channelled into the Common Councilmen’s Caribbean Holiday Fund, or even, let’s face it, The Virginia Rounding Retirement to San Moritz Fund!?
And your use of ‘grandstanding’ is fascinating! This is exactly the sort of word that was used in Soviet Russia and presumably is used in China today, when a member of the assembly wanted to suggest reform. It is a classic word of one-party states, who want everything tied up in back rooms before the unanimous vote is taken for the cameras. It’s not ‘grandstanding’, it’s democratic politics and it’s the best way of ensuring good and honest governance.