Penistone West’s Coun Dave Griffin spoke out after reading comments made in the February 12 Chronicle.
In the letters page, Mike Smith from Democracy for Barnsley spoke about how democracy does not begin and end at the ballot box, and suggested that Barnsley Council make the switch from a cabinet model to a committee.
This would mean that instead of having the council leader, and cabinet members, decisions would be made in dedicated committees and would involve all councillors.
“I completely agree with Mike’s statement that democracy doesn’t start and end at the ballot box,” said Dave. “Too many people think they only get to have their say during national elections and that’s not the case.
“We offer plenty of opportunities for people to have their say about issues that affect them but I think there’s still a bit of hesitancy on the part of the public to really get involved.
“The only thing I would say is, I don’t agree with Mike’s suggestion of making the switch to a committee council. I think that would cause more problems than it would solve, but I am glad that he wrote the letter because it’s always nice to be able to see things from different points of view.”
Despite this suggestion, Coun Griffin said that he feels members of the public should be encouraged to take part in local democracy before changing the way the council is run.
“I have heard a lot of comments from residents who say that the council didn’t consult on an issue,” he added. “There are some things we do have consultations about, planning for instance, but that can only go so far.
“I think what turns a lot of people away from taking part in local council decisions is that they assume that their view will be chosen during consultations. In reality there are a lot of voices to hear from when making a decision and it’s up to the leader to choose the best course of action - whether that is the most popular or not.
“It might be frustrating for people if the council seems to go against their opinion but I think that’s the mark of democracy in action. The point of consultation is for the council to be able to consider all points of view and then to be able to decide on the best option. I think the more people engage, the better informed we will be to make decisions.”
Coun Griffin offered advice to anyone who would like to be more involved with council proceedings but who may not know where to begin.
“Everyone has something they would like to be fixed,” he said. “Whether it’s a change to bin collection schedules, or queries to the local plan, everyone has something they are interested in and passionate about.
“I would say that’s a really great place to start, and the pandemic has made it even easier for people to get involved with what’s going on across the borough.
“The public are welcome to view our meetings, and have their say on what matters to them and we welcome them to do so. Democracy involves everyone so the more people we can get involved, the better it will be.”