Local Democracy Weekly: Public pressure can sway those in power

The £7,500 plastic Christmas tree saga has shown just how out of touch residents think councillors can be.

In the days leading up to what was a heated meeting hundreds of comments were made on social media with many decrying the original decision.

Some did support the initiative the councillors had taken and praised the attempt to improve a previously poor showing, however, in the end the traditionalists won out on a tight 10-10 vote tie break.

Of course, it didn’t help those who supported the plastic tree that a local producer offered one of his products – albeit several feet shorter – free of charge.

The meeting – the third one – has been jokingly referred to as Trexit or Chrexit as residents ask if a fourth, fifth or sixth vote is needed until the right answer found.

But perhaps the nod to the ongoing call for a second (or actually third) referendum over EU membership does spark an interesting comparison on the power of public persuasion at a local and national level.

Louth Christmas Tree isn’t the only decision locally to see a reversal of fortunes.

Following the local elections earlier this year, the Conservatives in North East Lincolnshire forced the authority into an emergency stop over plans to rip up the roundabout and replace it with traffic lights.

The decision was forced through by the Labour leadership last year, and some of its losses in the May elections – when the Tories campaigned on a promise to stop it – are put down to that decision.

In February, after suddenly finding their homes on the route of the Spalding Relief Road, residents in South Holland began a campaign which would see Lincolnshire County Council forced to take another look.

Although the north and south sections have been approved (for now, with some legal action currently taking place), the central section is up for grabs. Hopefully an answer will be forthcoming soon however, as residents say they’ve had the “summer from hell” waiting for answers.

With millions nationally calling for the public to have more say on the major decisions affecting our lives – particularly over the next few months – it’s good to see some local democracies giving way to enable people to have a voice.


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