Is it any wonder that so many people are disillusioned with the political system? The long running saga about the future of the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus perfectly encapsulates the impotence of local government councillors and officials.
At one time, this campus was ‘owned’ by the people through their local authority - North Yorkshire County Council. Local people would have a say, via their local councillors and local members of governing bodies, about the role and future of their colleges. Councillors who were not up to the task could be voted out of office.
That local voice was removed in 1993, by John Major’s Tory government which enacted the Further and Higher Education Act, and the site was given to the University of York St John. For unexplained reasons, the site was given to the University of Hull, who now, for similarly unexplained reasons, have decided to give the college to Hull College.
Scarborough Council, for some unexplained reason, wants Coventry University College to take over the site. In the face of all this undemocratic and unaccountable pusillanimity, is there any wonder that people give up on the process of engaging with local elections, when local councillors have such little power?
There are similar stories elsewhere that have a similar undemocratic story. Take, for example, the decision by the highly profitable rail companies to cancel through trains from Scarborough to the economic power houses of Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. Who asked us, the people, what we thought of this proposal. No doubt the shareholders will be happy.
A similar story of undemocratic unaccountability exists at the Yorkshire Coast College. This successful and well managed college was handed over (again, by John Major’s government) to a principal and governing body that became unhinged with the power they were given. This college became a systematically failing college (according to numerous Ofsted reports), and was taken over by Grimsby Institute Group in 2010.
We were promised local accountability via a Yorkshire Coast College Advisory Group. There were two minuted meetings of this committee, which have now been removed from their website. We are not told who the membership of the advisory group are, or what they are responsible for.
We, the people, have lost any say in how this college is operated. What is its purpose? How does it meet the needs of local people and businesses? When are we going to be told about the rebuilding of the premises that was so urgent before being taken over by Grimsby Institute? Are there any plans?
Schools that become academies, our local hospital and NHS becoming increasingly subjected to a privatisation process that jeopordises its financial and medical future. The government tearing the heart out of local democracy and local authorities.
With all of these formerly local services we have lost any link with democratic accountability. In allowing this to happen, we have also lost a say in how our country is managed. This is not the case in Scotland and goes some way to explain the low turnout in local and national elections.
So, my message to the University of Hull is - do as you wish. You are not accountable to me. As far as I can see, you are not accountable to anyone, and there seems to be nothing we, the people, can do about it.