Another round in the Herefordshire citizen assembly controversy

A previous post mentioned a letter to the editor of the Hereford Times expressing objections and distrust of the process around the Herefordshire Citizens’ Climate Assembly and in particular asking what the cost of the process was.

Councillor David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council, has now responded to the letter. Hitchiner reports that the total cost was £70,000, with Sortition Foundation receiving £8,456 plus VAT and Impact Consultancy and Research, receiving £30,000 (which, Hitchiner emphasizes, is a bargain).

The letter also asked Hitchiner whether he “subscribes to the view that our politics are in fact broken and, if so, what the council has been doing about it?”

Hitchiner answers:

Thankfully we live in a country with a democratic system. I do not consider that it is perfect.

Too few people do not [sic] exercise their democratic right to vote, and the elected are not even close to being a cross section of our society by age or socio-economic groupings.

For this reason consultation in decision making is especially important.

My hope is that more people in Herefordshire will respond to our consultations, and also decide to vote at the next election in response to the way in which this administration has gone about discharging the faith placed in us at the last election.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the commenters, both of them, are not impressed. One of them, letmehelp, writes:

The usual story of tax payers money being wasted on vanity projects and consultants. Vote them out

It is hard not to wonder why the commenter thinks that “voting them out” would change “the usual story”. Presumably, the story has persevered through multiple rounds of “voting them out”.

The other commenter, stickybuns, is more verbose, but not less irate, jaded and self-contradictory:

I wonder if Cllr Hitchener [sic] fully appreciates what he’s saying?

How, for example, can he bemoan the low turnout at the last elections (circa 36% in 2019), yet endorse the outcome of a ‘consultation’ which gauged the (suitably primed) opinions of an assembly that constituted a mere 0.04% (thereabouts) of the electorate?

Ah, but they were ‘scientifically’ chosen as a representative sample by a third party. Really!? Shouldn’t an assembly have selected that third party? Perhaps we should also have an assembly to determine whether Hereford ought to pursue a bypass? And what of the Council itself? If the Councillors “are not even close to being a cross-section of our society by age or socio-economic groupings”, shouldn’t we just do away with elections and have representatives selected by an assembly?

Our democratic system may not be perfect, but neither is a system that seeks to avoid the opinions of over 99% of the electorate – whose money has been spent organising and running it.

What is it then that the commenter complains about? He elects the councillors and seems to insist that that makes them the legitimate decision-makers. Yet, when they make decisions – including the decision to set up a citizen’s assembly – he seems upset. Disappointing, at the end of the second to last paragraph he seems to have arrived via logical inference at a perfectly reasonable solution, he immediately turns around and rejects it only to re-express his allegiance to the very mechanism – elections – that by all appearances is the source of his frustration.

One Response

  1. […] more specifically asking how much the sortition process has cost. Councillor David Hitchiner then responded that he does “not consider that [the political system] is perfect” and that the process […]

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