At last night’s Isle of Wight full council meeting, Cllr Michael Lilley’s motion to create a Citizens’ Assembly in the aftermath of the Coronavirus Pandemic was trashed by councillors with only ten voting in favour, 24 against and three abstaining.
Lilley: People missed the point
After presenting his motion (read in full), Cllr Lilley was met with a wave of opposition from councillors, starting with the Independent Labour councillor who was joined by several Conservatives.
Following the meeting, Cllr Lilley told News OnTheWight,
“I feel people missed the point and understanding of Citizen assemblies / panels which are used when a community is in trauma or crisis or felt their voice is not heard such as Grenfell.
“The 100 figure is random it could be any number, the figure 100 relates to 100% of community and the idea is to make sure all parts of the community have a voice.
“It could be a first-time Mum, ethic and cultural communities, such as Polish community, the over 80s carers, those with learning difficulties etc etc.
“My view was the 26 Hubs and voluntary sector could identify people within their communities to try ensure all voices were heard in some way. I clearly stated the idea need consultation and developing, but this was simply dismissed.”
Stephens seconds the motion
The motion was seconded by Cllr Ian Stephens (Island Indie Network) who said he wanted to ensure the commitment of Island people is heard across the chamber.
“You can’t put a value on the voice of the people and knowledge of the people on local issues. This is a grassroots up situation.”
Brodie: A talking shop
Cllr Geoff Brodie (Indie Lab) spoke out against the motion, saying he had serious concerns of what had been suggested.
“How is it going to be selected? At random, how is it going to be representative? If not random then it’ll be self selected, the great and the good, people who stick their hands and up and won’t really represent the people of the Isle of Wight.
“This council is the voice of the people who vote at every council election. I feel I speak for the people.”
He finished by saying he thought it would be “a talking shop”.
Mosdell: Worry about how many people put their head above the parapet
Cllr Clare Mosdell (Con) added her “great concerns” about the motion.
“I have protested for two years that the Chair of the Voluntary Sector Forum is a politician. It does make me worry how many people put their head above the parapet.
“It’s all very well saying this Citizens’ 100, but when you look at the membership of the Voluntary Sector Forum, at the regular meetings there are not that many people attending.
“Have been very careful with governance of the Health and Wellbeing Board, it includes councillors, police, the Voluntary Sector Forum and also a wide selection of society. It’s a place where we can check and challenge.”
“I consider this to be an unnecessary motion. We already have so many residents involved in the fight against Coronavirus and in developing a plan for the rebuilding of the Island, another body to do the same is unnecessary.”
“I’m absolutely amazed, Cllr Lilley is talking about selecting at random, looking at your own side perhaps, you’ve been selected at random.
“And then to listen to Cllr Stephens, I’ve never sat in a council meeting and heard someone insult so many people. Insult the councillors and all the town and parish councils, the officers, it seems to be a complete lack of respect of our existing democracy, and then of course all the other volunteers. I think it’s rubbish. I agree with Cllr Brodie, we are elected and represent the people who elected us.”
Perks: Don’t need anyone else telling us what they want
Having spoken more in this meeting than any other since becoming a councillor (as he self-proclaimed), Cllr Graham Perks (Indie / Vectis Party) joined the opposition to the motion, saying
“Listening to Cllrs Brodie and Mosdell, it’s lovely to hear that we are all on the same boat.
“I am sure their constituents are proud of the local organisations rallying around doing things for the community. We don’t need another 100 telling us what we’re doing wrong.
“When I read the motion, it sprung to mind of quangos and keyboard warriors and another crowd of people telling us to do a job.
“We all learn from each other, and some of the wonderful people at County Hall, there’s always someone to guide me in the right direction.
“We don’t need anyone else except the councillors and officers and public telling us what they want.”
Brading: An absolutely silly idea
Cllr Paul Brading (Con) thanked Cllr Lilley “for his sermon” before going on to say,
“I think this is an absolutely silly idea, without repeating what other people have said, we do have 40 councillors, town and parish councillors, etc.
I found Cllrs Lilley’s comments demeaning and detracting from the fantastic work that’s going on across this Island. We should be proud of them, not ‘recognise’ them. I agree with Cllr Brodie about ward councillors’ roles.
“Why’s he trying to reinvent the wheel? Where can 100 people even meet? It’s talking shop and I will vote against it.”
Fuller: If we are going to engage, it should be effective
After several negative responses to his speech Cllr Lilley garnered support from some of his fellow opposition councillors.
Cllr Paul Fuller (Island Indie Group) pointed out that the IWC’s “communication isn’t great”, adding,
“I know there are all these bodies, but the criticism we get is that the council doesn’t listen. If we are going to engage, it should be effective.”
Barry: Working hard to try and get round the clique
Cllr Reg Barry (LibDem) said he understood what Cllr Lilley was talking about,
“When the cabinet system started off, there was a thing called area committees, they tried it and it didn’t work. I don’t think this will work, but I can understand why he [Lilley] brought it.
“This council is the most non-inclusive council I’ve been on. Unless you’re in the majority group nobody knows what’s going on. If I want to know something, I’m going to go to OnTheWight or the County Press.”
He went on to add,
“All sorts of things go on, unless you are in the clique you don’t know about them. That’s why people like Cllr Lilley are working hard to try and get round that.
“Even when Pugh was leader of the council, every time he met Government …I was surprised to hear tonight we might not get this Island Deal after dozens of meetings, why haven’t they said to the opposition members this is the case, we have to wait until he [Stewart] drops the hint. That’s why I understand Cllr Lilley.”
Garratt: Nothing to do with insulting anyone in any way
Cllr Andrew Garratt (LibDem) pointed out that Cllr Lilley had “good academic background as to how citizens’ assemblies can work effectively”, he said,
“It’s certainly the case you can achieve diversity through random selection, what it helps achieve it those are the hardest to reach or least likely to he heard are heard in a structured way and gather that wisdom.
“It’s nothing to do with insulting anyone in any way.”
He went on to point out,
“I note a draft of the Better Island Covid Recovery Plan discusses a citizens’ recovery panel and discusses gaining a representative panel together to provide insight into well-being indicators. The idea that a Citizen’s Assembly is an anathema to this council astounds me.”
Garratt: Discussion focused on the personality rather than idea
Cllr Garratt went on to address the hostility directed at Cllr Lilley during councillors’ responses to the motion,
“A couple of members, not all, have focused their discussion on the personality of Cllr Lilley than on the idea. That is to be deprecated. Maybe if it had been brought by another member there might have been different support.”
Love: A need to get people to speak to each other
Cllr Karl Love (Indie Members Group) joined in, saying,
“I’m pretty amazed by what I’m hearing here tonight, we are all about democracy, and being inclusive of people of our Island at every different level is what we should strive to achieve.
“As a professional community development worker I know there is a need to get people to speak to each other and have their voice listened to. I see it as a wonderful strength.”
Love “Personal attacks” on Lilley
Cllr Love added that he felt there had been a personal attack on Cllr Lilley, saying
“His motion was well meaning and well intended yet some people taking it personally. This was an attempt to engage the community in discussion – what is wrong with that?
“Other than some people feeling defensive of their own political positions. The more that people talk, the better, why should we be offended? It’s ludicrous.”
Andre: An opportunity to engage in meaningful way
Cllr Debbie Andre (Island Indie Group) finished the rally of support by saying,
“A lot of things have been said on both sides, but there seems to be some confusion about what’s being suggested here It’s about having the right people, with the right skills, in the right place.
“On the Island we have experts that don’t have time to be a councillor, but they would engage and have time with a Citizens’ Assembly, giving us access to expert opinion in a huge variety of fields.
“The criticism of public consultations is that we don’t consult enough – this is an opportunity to engage in meaningful way. It’s extremely value for Island to have access to expert knowledge.”
Lilley: IWC’s own Covid Recovery Plan suggests a citizens’ panel
Cllr Lilley finished by telling News OnTheWight,
“The systematic erosion of opportunities to have any chance to debate and discuss any new ideas is now limited in this council. I had five minutes in a virtual meeting to get something across. I failed last night in getting my point over, but I tried.
“The irony is in the IW Council’s own post Covid Recovery Plan is the suggestion on residents/citizen’s panels.”
Lilley: Enabling new and hidden voices to be heard
“My intention was only to suggest IW Council to consider enabling new and hidden voices to be heard and hopefully the seeds have been sown.
“I worked for decades in traumatised communities and with survivors of crises. Citizen panels and assemblies, in my eyes, were very useful when communities have to rebuild.
24 councillors voted against the motion, they were:
- Cllr Axford (Con)
- Cllr Bertie (Con)
- Cllr Beston (Con)
- Cllr Brading (Con)
- Cllr Brodie (Indie Labour)
- Cllr Cameron (Con)
- Cllr Churchman (Con)
- Cllr Hastings (Con)
- Cllr Hendry (Con)
- Cllr Hobart (Con)
- Cllr Hollis (Con)
- Cllr Hutchinson (Con)
- Cllr Kilpatrick (Con)
- Cllr Mosdell (Con)
- Cllr Murwill (Ind)
- Cllr Perks (Ind)
- Cllr Peace (Con)
- Cllr Price (Con)
- Cllr Quirk (Con)
- Cllr Smart (Island Indie)
- Cllr Stewart (Con)
- Cllr Tyndall (Con)
- Cllr Ward (Con)
- Cllr Whittle (Con)
Those supporting the motion were:
- Cllrs Andre (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Fuller (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Lilley (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Medland (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Peacey-Wilcox (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Jones-Evans (Indie Members Group)
- Cllr Love (Indie Members Group)
- Cllr Stephens (Island Indie Network)
- Cllr Barry (LibDem)
- Cllr Garratt (LibDem)
Three councillors abstained:
- Cllrs Nicholson (Con)
- Cllr Downer (Island Indie Group)
- Cllr Howe (Island Indie Group)