AddThis SmartLayers

Newspaper’s card game reveals which councillors work hardest

An Essex newspaper has made local councillors the subject of a Top Trumps themed card game to show which councillors work hardest in its community.

The Brentwood Gazette published 37 playing cards in Wednesday’s edition detailing vital statistics such as how much case work each councillor has performed, their council meeting attendance and allowance.

The weekly title ran a front page article and double page investigation by reporter Iain Johnson, and a centre spread of ‘Top Toilers’ cards for readers to cut out and play at home, created by design-guru Alex Leys.

This most recent article delved into the amount of case work each councillor has recorded since the last elections.

It followed heavy criticism from the council leader, certain councillors and their supporters who responded to an earlier expose by the paper which revealed how long, in minutes, each member had spoken in the chamber in the last six months, and their attendance at meetings.

The front page of the Brentwood Gazette on Wednesday

One ward member hadn’t uttered a single word in a meeting in that time, and many others had barely opened their mouths to contribute to debate or represent their electorate.

Gazette editor Nev Wilson said: “Despite the moans and groans, councillors have, it seems, taken our findings seriously. Attendance has improved considerably and members have been falling over themselves to have their say at meetings since our article was published.

“But after each story, the excuse that the complete picture was not provided was hurriedly trotted out from the town hall.

“This week, following more figures prized from our “open and transparent” borough council through the Freedom of Information Act, we really have put the power in the hands of the public.

“Our fun approach based on the classic card game allows taxpayers to see for themselves just how hard their elected representatives are working for them.

He added: “We’ve already cut out, mounted and created our own set of cards for the office, which we’ve been playing this morning.”



You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • March 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Why would councillor’s ever speak? In most local authorities all the decisions other than planning applications are taken by a small group of cabinet members. There is little debate or intelligent discussion and democracy is a total sham.
    Labour brought in this nonsense leader and cabinet system in 2003 and the Conservatives said they would do something about it. They have introduced the Localism Act but I don’t see too many highly paid cabinets around the country being disbanded.
    These days the only council meetings worth attending and reporting are a few town and parish councils.

    Good work by the paper to highlight the charade though.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • March 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Good to see a bit of initiative and imagination going into a splash. A tad gimmicky maybe, but it makes a serious point and it’s clearly got the council’s attention – and how many local papers can say that these days?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • March 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I’m a former journalist who thought I knew how councils worked from my days covering ours for my local paper (before I sold my soul and went into PR).
    On the basis of that “understanding” I was elected at the last local council elections last year as a member of the ruling group. What I quickly learned is that, not only did I not have the understanding I thought I had, but I wasn’t even close to imagining the way council is run.
    The ‘public’ council meetings are virtually scripted so that no questions can ever be asked that in front of the press that are unexpected. Anything even remotely critical is banned — with fear of the axe if you break the rules and speak out. As our ruling group is essentially three quarters of the council we get three quarters of the time allowed for questions at meetings — and our leadership ensures that there are enough soft questions to fill every second of that time.
    What is particularly scary is that the local constituency parties have the power to expel you from the national party, meaning that for anyone (like me) with longer term, wider political aspirations you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.
    The obvious answer would be to resign and speak out — in the local paper of course — but there is also the debate which you have with yourself constantly, am I better serving the people who elected me by staying inside the tent and trying to change things?
    Who said we live in a democracy?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)