Friday, 20 May 2016

Launceston Council's Mandate – What is it?

Its a somewhat sobering exercise to look back at the mandate won by Launceston's aldermen at the last election when there was a spill of all positions and where the mandate runs until 2018. 

Clearly, if there were to be an election this year for half the council, as was once the case, one might imagine that some aldermen might well be modifying their behaviors in regard to some matters. The question of a mandate, and for what, is an interesting one. It is interesting in so much as it goes to both accountability and the representational role of a council and by extension individual aldermen.

Various commentators have claimed that the number of signatures on the Citizens' Petition  – almost 1,500 and authorized signatories falling comfortably over the 1,000 – "is insignificant". In the context of local government in Launceston. The council's mandate to operate unilaterally is very much open to contention and it is hard to see upon what basis it is imagined that there is in fact a mandate to do so.

The first observation to be made is that, as an alderman, the mayor has a clear and arguably an unassailable  aldermanic mandate. However his mandate as mayor is open to contention given that he hold the post on a touch under 46% of first preferences that translates to 50.20% after preferences – hardly a clear mandate

The deputy mayor's position is a quite different issue in that three candidates drew less than 30% of first preferences and the winning candidate scoring just over 50% after preferences were distributed to win the post – again hardly a mandate.

Of the all aldermen, after the mayor, only two received more 1,500 first preference votes and only five of the remaining aldermen received more than 1,000 first preference votes – hardly the basis for a claim that in comparison to the petitioners they collectively hold some kind of authoritative mandate.

The remaining three aldermen with significantly less that 1,000 first preferences should be paying very close attention to their constituency rather than teaming up with some issue based cabal or other to claim a supposed mandate – something for which no grouping could realistically claim that they had won in regard to so many issues upon which council asserts its authority.

All in all the numbers offer nothing much upon which hubristic claims of a mandate might be asserted. Rather the numbers point to council needing to work quite diligenently in order to operate within an inclusive, consultative and representational framework towards winning a community social license to govern.


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