Suffolk: MP Ben Gummer attacks ‘mediocre’ councillors
MP Ben Gummer has delivered a stinging attack on local government at the Tory Party conference – labelling some councillors “mediocre”
He used his experience of dealing with the Labour-controlled borough to during a fringe meeting in Birmingham, where he contrasted local politicians in cities today with leaders from the late 19th and early 20th centuries who transformed their communities.
And the Ipswich MP said many were “self-governing oligarchies of mediocre people.”
He denied he was speaking directly about his experience in his constituency, but he added: “I sometimes wonder if the council knows it is there to serve the people of Ipswich.”
Speaking after making his off-the-cuff speech at the fringe, Mr Gummer said the low turn-out and lack of local accountability meant it was difficult to find high calibre councillors.
But when politicians spoke to residents on their doorsteps it was usually local issues that they were most concerned about.
Mr Gummer said: “More business people need to have a role with councils to enable them to really press on with developing their area – that’s how the great cities like Birmingham and Manchester developed more than 100 years ago.”
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He repeated his claim, made in his Star column last month, that many councillors would be unable to understand a balance sheet.
Mr Gummer denied that he wanted to create a “business vote” that would be seen as undemocratic, but said that the City of London where businesses do have a say on the Corporation had helped to create prosperity.
“I am currently working on proposals that would increase business involvement with local government and I shall be publishing those findings later in the year,” he said.
However his comments did not go down well with Labour council leader David Ellesmere who will be fighting Mr Gummer at the next general election.
He said: “The borough has been working very hard to boost the prosperity in the town. We are building the first new council homes in a generation. We have taken action to bring in new businesses.
“We have organised a series of major events in the town to boost its profile – Maritime Ipswich prompted more interest among people interested in buying property on the Waterfront and has already led to more sales there.
“The borough is working very hard to try to improve life in the town because the government’s policies are squeezing the economy so much.”