Could this be a first for Norfolk?

September 08, 2010 12:09 PM

Oh the joys of living in an old-fashioned shire county, with its two tiers of local government. I have previously bored for England – and at length on the TPA website – about Norfolk County Council (“NCC”) and its twin-hatter phenomenon. Fifty of the eighty-four seats on NCC are held by members of one of the underlying seven district councils. Quite quickly, these fortunate individuals acquired the description “twin-hatters” in the local media.


The problems that spring from this have been well-rehearsed before, but let me just issue a few reminders. Can a twin-hatter dedicate sufficient time to serve adequately both on NCC and on his or her district council, particularly where the individual in question has special responsibilities as a member? (At the moment, one half of the members of NCC qualify for a special responsibility allowance.)


The same question can be asked where the twin-hatter is shown in the register of members’ interests as employed or running a business. While the quality of the information contained in the NCC register varies, it would seem that more than twenty twin-hatters have full-time work or business interests. Manyhats


Then there is the issue of conflict of interest. Separate instances of this may occur. On the one hand, an NCC twin-hatter may have a personal and prejudicial interest simply as a result of receiving an allowance from a district council. On the other hand, the policy of the twin-hatter’s district council, in relation to a particular matter, may be at variance with that of NCC. In neither instance will the twin-hatter be able to take part in the debate and the vote, without the grant of a dispensation from the NCC standards committee.


Finally, the question of members’ allowances cannot be ignored. Council taxpayers are often (quite properly) offended by the amounts of allowances that twin-hatters can pull in. The starting point for an NCC twin-hatter is about £12,500.


We now come to a fascinating development. Currently, thirteen of the thirty-nine seats on Norwich City Council (“the CC” – if that doesn’t become confusing) are vacant. This is because the decision of the last government to grant the CC unitary status, which would have given the thirteen an extended term until May 2011, was quashed in the High Court a few months ago. The court ruled that the election for the thirteen seats should be held this month. Enter stage left Cllr Charlotte Casimir, who is presently a member of both NCC and Broadland District Council. (She is one of the NCC twin-hatters holding down a paid job, namely as personal assistant to the managing director of a successful housing development company).


Cllr Casimir is now offering herself also as a candidate for the CC. The qualification rules allow this, but should anyone seek to become a triple-hatter? Irrespective, it really could be a first for Norfolk – if the voters don’t reject her!

John Martin, Norfolk


Oh the joys of living in an old-fashioned shire county, with its two tiers of local government. I have previously bored for England – and at length on the TPA website – about Norfolk County Council (“NCC”) and its twin-hatter phenomenon. Fifty of the eighty-four seats on NCC are held by members of one of the underlying seven district councils. Quite quickly, these fortunate individuals acquired the description “twin-hatters” in the local media.


The problems that spring from this have been well-rehearsed before, but let me just issue a few reminders. Can a twin-hatter dedicate sufficient time to serve adequately both on NCC and on his or her district council, particularly where the individual in question has special responsibilities as a member? (At the moment, one half of the members of NCC qualify for a special responsibility allowance.)


The same question can be asked where the twin-hatter is shown in the register of members’ interests as employed or running a business. While the quality of the information contained in the NCC register varies, it would seem that more than twenty twin-hatters have full-time work or business interests. Manyhats


Then there is the issue of conflict of interest. Separate instances of this may occur. On the one hand, an NCC twin-hatter may have a personal and prejudicial interest simply as a result of receiving an allowance from a district council. On the other hand, the policy of the twin-hatter’s district council, in relation to a particular matter, may be at variance with that of NCC. In neither instance will the twin-hatter be able to take part in the debate and the vote, without the grant of a dispensation from the NCC standards committee.


Finally, the question of members’ allowances cannot be ignored. Council taxpayers are often (quite properly) offended by the amounts of allowances that twin-hatters can pull in. The starting point for an NCC twin-hatter is about £12,500.


We now come to a fascinating development. Currently, thirteen of the thirty-nine seats on Norwich City Council (“the CC” – if that doesn’t become confusing) are vacant. This is because the decision of the last government to grant the CC unitary status, which would have given the thirteen an extended term until May 2011, was quashed in the High Court a few months ago. The court ruled that the election for the thirteen seats should be held this month. Enter stage left Cllr Charlotte Casimir, who is presently a member of both NCC and Broadland District Council. (She is one of the NCC twin-hatters holding down a paid job, namely as personal assistant to the managing director of a successful housing development company).


Cllr Casimir is now offering herself also as a candidate for the CC. The qualification rules allow this, but should anyone seek to become a triple-hatter? Irrespective, it really could be a first for Norfolk – if the voters don’t reject her!

John Martin, Norfolk


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