Chronicles of local politics

I’ve been wanting to chronicle my time in local politics in the Netherlands for quite some time, especially because recently I think some of my behaviours, and viewpoints regarding politics and debate have been influenced by it. So here goes.

It must have been 2002 I first got politically active while still living in Purmerend, a close just north of Amsterdam. It was at a time when Pim Fortuyn (the politician who was later murdered) was making a name for himself. I liked his style (he was a very eloquent politician who had written some books) and he had -in my view- an eclectic mix of left-and-right points. Especially his analysis of the governments in the 80s spoke to me. However, I did not agree with many of his more ‘classical liberal’ viewpoints. At the time, many political parties, from left to right were attacking him, sometimes with derogatory references to Germany in the 30s. I was appalled by that; one party did not do this and wrote a booklet in which they addressed the arguments in the book. That was when I decided to become active for the SP. I continued doing so when I moved back to the town where I was brought up, Enkhuizen.

In the council

The historic council room of Enkhuizen

It was our intention, but there were strict rules for taking part in them, to join the council elections in 2006. The council in Enkhuizen has 17 seats, and like nationally there is a representative system. In 2006, for the first time, we obtained two seats in the council, I was ‘the number 2’ and obtained a seat. Although the SP politically is quite left, I would say that locally this was less important than local points. Our ‘profile’ consisted of good affordable housing, local healthcare, that sort of thing. Unfortunately in (I think) 2008 the ‘number 1′ stepped out of the party and continued for herself, making me the only councilor (and therefore leader) of the local SP. Of course behind it there was a local chapter and the rule was that the members set out the course, and the councilor(s) would then follow that line. This, of course, is quite relevant to explain why I can’t stand MPs that feel they can *not* follow their members. Sure, you might disagree with viewpoints, I think it’s an illusion to think you might never, but surely there must be some basis of democracy. In a party system like in the Netherlands people vote on parties for the parties’ viewpoints. Only in some rare cases do individuals have enough clout to attract enough votes to get a seat. But in 99% of the cases votes are based on party choices. I know this is different in the UK but nevertheless, it has instilled in me a firm belief that members decide, political reps follow. If they feel bad about it, they either (i) keep silent, (ii) arrange freedom to vote (if it does not undermine the party’s image), (iii) go away and give the seat to someone else. It was interesting to learn that in the UK giving up a seat would automatically trigger by-elections.

From 2008-2010 I was the only councilor and we built a new party. There were some big issues in Enkhuizen at the time with the two most prolific ones being parking permits for the inner town, and the sale of an historical hospital and healthcare. Our viewpoints in both the topics made that we had quite a unique profile. In addition, I think that as a councilor I espoused that I was very accessible, always would react to queries from citizens, and took them seriously. Mind you, contrary to what political opponents would say, this did not mean ‘doing what citizens wanted me to do’. There are certain principles and policies that follow from the political party and those are key. This is something I would expect any councilor to do. You’re not there for yourself but to represent your voters. During that time there was a minority coalition with three ‘governors’ from the parties NE, VVD-D66 and CDA that got backing from the smaller Christian party (CU-SGP).

Votes 2010 2006 Typology
Nieuw Enkhuizen (NE) 1212 (3 seats) 2206  Local party
PvdA 1244 (3 seats) 1990  Social-democrats (Labour)
VVD-D66 1259 (3 seats) 1007  Liberals (Tories plus LibDem)
SP 1593 (3 seats) 1006  Socialist Party (in practical terms more slightly left of social-democratic)
CDA 1060 (2 seats) 778  Conservative Christian
(nationally often governed)
CU-SGP 446 (1 seat) 764  Christian religion
GROENLINKS 379 (1 seat) 421  Green party
Lijst Quasten 442 (1 seat)  Local party

The 2010 campaign

During 2009/2010 we led a very successful (local) campaign in which I was the front-man, and we managed to get three seats (almost four). Apart from our ‘national’ profiles – the national image of the parties obviously plays a large role locally as well, two local issues stood out in that time:

1. Paid parking permits. The governor  responsible for parking matters had plans to introduce paid parking permits in the old inner town of Enkhuizen. The plan was not thought out well, and as all plans the main question was “how is this plan going to address the aim to reduce cars in the inner city?”. This question had never been answered. We were very much opposed to these plans as it would just cost money with no noticeable effect. We devised our own plan and then started a poster campaign, distributing A4 window posters against paid parking permits. It was a big success. Some citizens put the posters behind their windows, but more importantly our party became known as a party that fought against what many inner city citizens saw as an unattractive development. Because of this success, the governor in question was not very amused, eventually even resulting in calling us ‘liars’ and starting a counter campaign.

The old Snouck van Loosen hospital

2. A new health centre.

The old town of Enkhuizen has an old ‘Snouck van Loosen’ hospital. This hospital was in use by several health providers, including a walk-in center of the nearby larger general hospital. As the maintenance costs of the building were very high, the governors and council decided that it should be redeveloped. During the development of the plans two serious providers remained: one was a collaboration of the hospital with the local organisation responsible for council homes and healthcare, another was a property developer with experience in building healthcare centers. For us, the guarantee of healthcare, and especially the hospital, remaining in Enkhuizen was key. The property developer could not guarantee this but offered more money. The governors at the time chose for the property developer. In addition to health the people living around the development site were afraid that planning permission would mean their homes would be affected negatively. At the point of the elections it was clear that the responsible governor (from VVD-D66) would continue while some other political parties, including us, were against.

Photograph in the newspapers; in the back our campaign poster against parking charges.

In the table I’ve put in a fairly simple ‘typology’ of the parties, knowing full well that it doesn’t do justice to all of it, certainly not in a local context. What I think was very important was the diverse ‘media strategy’ we had. Twitter was up and coming, and I got a mention in a national magazine as one of the most prolific local politicians on Twitter. We did a lot flyers on the street and door-to-door (we did that throughout the year, by the way, which added to an image we also cared after the elections). We also did ads in the local newspapers, where we would simply show our voting history (and that of others) on the main themes. Obviously we kept an updated website with sometimes an interactive addition; I used my programming skills to, for example, design a ‘fun’ space invaders game with the key politicians.Finally, there also were hustings, in which we kept on highlighting our key themes.

The day of the election

The day of the elections was one of the strangest days I’ve ever seen. The campaign was over. I can’t really remember what I did that day, but I do know that, contrary to most political parties, we started off the election night in the place we always had our meetings. We wanted to organise a nice get-together with all the people who had helped during the campaign. After 9pm, when the ballot closed, we went to the old city hall or more precise the neighbouring tavern where the results would be announced. In this packed room we would await the Mayor who would announce the results. The atmosphere was feverish and some people who had seen the counting whispered in my ear that we were doing really well. As we had gone down from 2 to 1 seat because of 1 person leaving the party, I thought it would be great if we would be back on two. I remember watching the big screen when the votes were announced. Our bar shot up highest: we had received the most votes of all the political parties. It seemed the room (and also the Mayor) was stunned. It was generally expected that the old minority coalition, as the liberals nationally were winning quite some seats, would get a majority (later, it would turn out that the governor even had already written a draft coalition document for the occasion). But unexpectedly they ended up on eight again, and we had taken most votes. It really was quite special. In retrospect I think I could already see that evening coalition building had begun. I could not participate of course, as everyone wanted to congratulate me with our victory. I knew the next morning coalition talks would begin.


Now came one of the hardest times in my life, both mentally and politically. But to understand this phase best I first need to say a bit more about the political context and system. the Enkhuizen council has 17 seats. Ideally, after elections the biggest political party takes the lead in assembling a majority coalition (so of at least 9 seats). The tradition is that the largest party would take the lead, and that was the SP. We really tried to approach these negotiations as neutrally as possible, although some might’ve thought we were full of resentment. I can honestly say we weren’t. Sure, it was clear that the ‘old coalition’ wanted to continue, and that our victory had complicated things, but some (naive?) idealism meant that we thought that after the elections, the campaigns were over and we could simply use logical argument and debate to get a good coalition that did justice to the election result. This meant that the first step was to meet all the parties. With a standard script we met with representatives of all the other parties to get clear what they expected. Minutes of all the 1-2 hours meetings were made up and published openly. Based on this we wrote an initial ‘exploration’ document, suggesting the most logical programmatic way forward. Even in the first round one could already see some friction in the big election points. Although initially the idea was to only have formal meetings and a completely transparent process, it became clear that sometimes informal meetings were necessary. The advantage of these is that there is bit less tension; the disadvantage is that things can be said that can later on not be used, as they were not recorded. After a first round, taking into account programmatic agreement and the winning/losing parties, we first tried to build a core coalition with VVD-D66 and CDA. This came as a bit of a shock to parties on the center left as ideologically they felt they were closer to the SP. However, they had lost votes, and they would not budge on one of the main election points, parking. We did feel that the other point might become problematic with the other parties, but this was not voiced as resolutely (yet). It seems useful to mention that in (Dutch) politics parties that walk away from negotiations, can be depicted as not taking responsibility. This meant that part of the process was to *never* do that, and let others leave, if possible.

An inappropriate offer

Coalition agreement. Note how we crossed out the CDA, who recanted 2 hours before the formal council meeting.

Basically, if now only one more party would join, we would have the ‘old coalition’ complemented with us, the SP. This was not what we wanted, as it was quite clear that a large group of people wanted some changes to be made. We expected that this fourth party, NE, would increasingly present themselves with viewpoints we wanted to hear, to force this ‘old coalition plus us’ on us. They even went to the newspaper to declare that they would be perfectly willing to govern with the party they had accused of ‘lies’ before. Our hesitance to include them was not taken well and seen as resentment from our part; this was unfair in my view, it was quite clear that there simply were incompatibilities between us.The negotiations with those parties faltered and we regrouped to try and get an agreement on the center-left. One challenge was that we needed at least one party from the ‘old coalition’. We did extra rounds with the party that was closest, and normally quite pragmatic, the CDA. By giving them several points, making it hard to refuse, we managed to get an agreement. Literally, later that day, CDA unfortunately recanted their agreement. I never really found out what had happened. Their story was that one of them had encountered *some* members of *one of the other parties* and that they had said things that had made them doubt our true intentions with the agreement. But I think it had more to do with the ‘old coalition’ and their agreement to not let each other go. To set this in context, there were blocks on the political left and right, and solitary seats ‘in the middle’ (CU-SGP). Previously, they had given support to the old coalition. I think they were hoping this would happen again; this was not an impossibility. To be honest, I was shattered at that point. Weeks of well-intended and idealistic work, in my view, became the victim of political games. What we did do is make clear to the outside world, that it wasn’t us that had ‘let go’ but others. This was, for example, done by releasing a nicely formatted ‘coalition agreement’ with CDA crossed out, making clear that there *was* an agreement. I gave several interviews outlining the process, and made sure our website gave a full account of what had happened.

Ironically, it then was the ‘second largest party’, VVD-D66 the party that led the ‘old coalition’, that took over the negotiations. It was clear that the parties of the ‘old coalition’ knew each other very well and agreed about many points very swiftly. Of course, not taking the lead any more, meant that we could not get many of our points in. In fact, we were quite resistant to any ritual games of ‘neutral negotiations’. It was quite clear what everyone wanted, it was all in the minutes of the public negotiations, and essentially it boiled down to whom the one seat party CU-SGP would support to make a majority. Unfortunately they felt they had to support ‘continuity’ and went for the ‘old coalition’. That was that. In parallel, though, there was another problem. At one point the VVD-D66 governor invited me over for a frank conversation about the new health centre. In this conversation he confided in facts about the centre that previously had been denied, upon direct questions from us. My feeling was that this was an inappropriate offer: by confiding this to me, we could become part of the ‘inner circle’ and ultimately become part of the local government. This was not something we were willing to accept, after all, in our view, the governor had lied to the council. We gave him an ultimatum: to either come clean himself within a couple of days, or we would send out a message and ask questions about this during the next council meeting. This still drives me: some principles are non-negotiable. We could have governed but the price, accepting lies about a project that concerned the citizens of Enkhuizen, was unacceptable.

How it ended

It was this council meeting that became a big focal point of two things. Firstly, because it would concretise the establishment of the old coalition (and not us, although we were the largest party). Secondly, we would bring out the news about the lies. Of course, we were accused of being ‘bad losers’, and even that we had jeopardised the good relationships in the council, because we had taken so long to negotiate. I guess that disappointed the most; rather than confess any manipulation had taken place, it was all *our fault*. Luckily, I think we had enough goodwill, and explained the events so clearly in the media, that not many citizens seemed to believe these ‘alternative facts’. Remarkably, the coalition agreement they had made, contained elements that were non-negotiable when the ‘old coalition’ was negotiating with us.

Dutch heading in newspaper when I left for Southampton.
Dutch heading in newspaper when I left for Southampton.

So that is how the negotiations ended. We were in opposition and of course still were going strong (although I had to pause my activities for some months later on). I emigrated with my family to the UK in 2012 and I’m very happy to see that the local chapter has gone from strength to strength, being by far the biggest party in the current council with 4 seats, as well as a governor. I still value my time as councilor as a lot.


Education Politics

Thoughts on the HE green paper

I was asked to give my thoughts on the HE green paper. Here are some thoughts.

  • I agree with a strong emphasis on teaching.
  • This can be improved considerably but it is a caricature to suggest that teaching is not valued.
  • A stronger emphasis on teacher should not mean that it’s just another extra obligation. It must be understood that if we want more emphasis on teaching, perhaps there must be less emphasis on research. A nightmare scenario would be that the TEF adds to the bureaucracy of HEIs
  • In other words, it should not be another REF, but then just for teaching. Certainly if we want a cross-over between research and teaching (p. 20), especially important perhaps for an Education School, then this also means appreciating what can’t be done.
  • Measuring ‘teaching quality’ is difficult. Using multi-modal approaches is better than simple metrics. I think chapter 3 on the TEF addresses this quite reasonably.
  • Teaching is a collaborative affair where teachers (staff) are experts who ‘teach’ students. Teachers together with students. A too student-centered approach (aimed at what the students want) is not desirable. Students do not always know best. Metrics like the NSS are very arbitrary and do not correlate strongly with teaching quality. Research shows that variance of surveys like these lies more at the student level and not institutional level, in other words differences within HEI are much larger than between HEI. This means that comments like on p.19 (point 7.) are unwarranted, as hardly any variance on student experience and engagement can be explained at the HEI level. I appreciate that this can be mitigated by using multiple sources for determining ‘teaching quality’ but this must really be key. In addition, good teachers already listen to students.
  • The link between ‘teaching quality’ and raising fees is undesirable. The comment on p. 19 on ‘value for money’ is subjective as ‘value for money’ can also mean that the fees should be lowered (this would be a good idea), thus increasing the ‘value for money’. Yet, in this context it is used to argue the value should be increased. Given the high scores for the NSS, this seems strange. Further, the HEPI-HEA research also says (p. 9): “Unsurprisingly, when asked about their top three priorities for institutional expenditure, 48% of students chose ‘reducing fee levels’. However, four further clear priorities emerge, each chosen by over one-third of students:  increasing teaching hours, decreasing class sizes, better training for lecturers  and better learning facilities.”. The current report seems to what one-sidedly have chosen only a few of these items.
  • There is another inconsistency in all of this: if teaching quality for students is improved, partly based on student judgements, I presume, students are ‘rewarded’ with higher fees. This seems very paradoxical, very ‘anti market’, and could also set teachers against students.
  • GPA seems more appropriate than the current ‘banding’ but the problem is more that student achievement is conflated with ‘teaching quality’. Certainly with a strong contribution of student evaluations I doubt a new system will do away with a tendency to have higher grades. The new system even seems to incentivize this. I would prefer actions that really do something about root causes. Luckily the limitations are acknowledged on p.26 (point #41).
  • On participation the document does not convey any sense of wider, systemic reasons for a lack of participation, for example Socio-economic inequalities. Of course this document is about HE but like many foci, some acknowledgement of this would have been good.
  • The changes in the market do not acknowledge that there is no real market. Like many semi-public examples this will combine the worst of both worlds.
  • On the education structure: students should not be at the center: students AND teachers should be at the center. In point 4 staff is sorely missed. In addition, ‘market principles’ are very central. It also says ‘affordable’ which seems counter to the fee developments in the last decade. A name ‘Office for Students’ fails to acknowledge HE is a joint affair.
  • The changes in the architecture seem very reasonable but the question needs to be asked “what does this restructuring really solve?”. It sounds like rebranding exercises the private sector often does: old wine in new wineskins. The costs of these reforms are often underestimated (e.g. IT costs).

Voting in the UK

Hampshire_County_FlagToday was my first time voting in the United Kingdom for the local county council elections (Hampshire, Chandler’s Ford). I’m the kind of person who thinks that voting is my democratic duty. Of course, I did have to come to terms with the different UK election system. The main difference is that in a county is divided in districts and those are divided in wards. I live in the ward of Chandler’s Ford. In a ward you choose one candidate and ‘winners takes all’. This has some striking effects for the dynamics of local politics. In the Netherlands there is fierce billboard competition before the local elections. Here, there is almost nothing. In the UK I primarily received folders and flyers. As only the winners takes all political parties who probably can’t win in a ward don’t even bother to send some information. This, for example, was the case for the Green Party and Labour in my ward. I find that quite disappointing, especially for such a big political party as Labour. The other three, UKIP, Conservatives and LibDems did bring pamphlets. They all have a chance of winning here, I suspect that those parties wouldn’t do this in  local wards where they’re behind. Personally I think it is a political party’s moral obligation to inform the public, even with a district/ward system. Furthermore, how are you ever going to grow if you don’t go for it. Mind you, from own personal experience in the Netherlands, where I served in the local council for the SP, I do understand that a ‘full-on’ campaign takes a lot of people. People a party perhaps doesn’t have.

Now for the thoughts about the parties:

The Conservatives sent quite a lot of pamphlets. I did not like their focus on taxes and money. They remind me too much of the Dutch VVD: no vote for them. The Liberal Democrats had a slightly better narrative. They remind me of the Dutch liberal democrats of D66. Also in their national desire to help fairly right-to-the-center politics to a majority. The final reason why I did not vote for them is two-fold: one is that I don’t like their ‘negative’ campaign slogan “vote for us to keep the conservatives away, and Labour can’t win anyway”. The second was their comment that they didn’t like the politisation of local politics and then went on to defend the coalition government (LibDems+Conservatives), but attack the county (Conservatives). I don’t like such opportunistic politics (although I acknowledge that politics always will have some of that). No vote for the LibDems. Then the UKIP. I’ve always thought that on a national level Farage had very good point with regard to the EU. Actually, a lot of these points coincide with the SP which I supported in the Netherlands. However, on a local level I think the good points have become lost a bit. No UKIP. Labour resembles the Dutch PvdA. And that immediately is my main objection. Apart from the lack of information, which I find unacceptable from such a large political party, I’m not sure Labour would really make a difference from right-to-the-center policies. Some of the retoric, both local and national (Milliband) sounds OK, but as I’ve seen so often in the Netherlands: if social-democrats come to power ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. Hmm, well, I’ve crossed out everyone then? Almost. I didn’t hear much from the Green Party (a definite negative), so I had to venture out for myself on websites, and Twitter. My main conern was the one I had with the Dutch GroenLinks: good ecological standpoints but a liberal socio-economic agenda. A Green Party candidate in Fareham informed me:

I’m still not totally convinced. Like the Dutch SP I think socio-economic issues should have more emphasis. My party would probably be a combination of TUSC and the Green Party (no, Mr. Gove, not a Marxist party :-P). However, as I was not going to do ‘strategic’ voting, the final choice was fairly straightforward. I voted Joe Cox of the Green Party. Don’t know much about him, though. Google doesn’t bring much either. Maybe next time he should at least have some sort of blog or facebook account?


[Dutch Treat] Drom, alweer

Al vele jaren lang heeft de gemeente het over de Drommedaris. Het zal dan ook niet zo verbazen dat dit dossier ook vanuit het Verenigd Koninkrijk mijn aandacht heeft. Niet meer als raadslid of SP-er maar als Nederlander die op de hoogte blijft van een stad die altijd een plekje in het hart zal houden. In juli nog besloot de gemeenteraad dat de restauratie nou eindelijk maar eens moest gaan beginnen (zie hier)

Aangezien dit dossier al jaren loopt, met vele malen uitstel hier en daar, mogen we aannemen dat de raad niet over 1 nacht ijs ging en alle beschikbare informatie meegenomen heeft in het besluit:

Per omgaande beginnen dus. Nu, vier maanden na dato, blijkt dat het college het besluit niet heeft uitgevoerd, en komt zij met een voorstel om toch de gehele verbouwing te doen (zie hier het voorstel met bij diverse paragrafen wat commentaar van mijn hand). Het zou natuurlijk heel mooi zijn als de verbouwing zonder financiële gevolgen plaats zou kunnen vinden. Dit is in de afgelopen jaren nooit door diverse fracties onder stoelen of banken gestoken. Echter, ondanks alle maanden en jaren meer tijd is het de wethouder nooit gelukt om de ronkende woorden in de beginjaren waar te maken. Nee, we moesten niet raar opkijken als we zelfs niets hoefden te betalen voor de verbouwing. In juli besloot de raad dat het wel genoeg was. Ik vraag me af wat de wethouder bezielt om toch maar gewoon door te gaan. Het probleem is niet dat de verbouwing gewoon door kan gaan, maar dat de wethouder een besluit van de raad aan z’n laars lapt, en komt met een nieuw voorstel.

Er is echter meer vreemd aan het laatste voorstel:

  1. Het besluit was niet helder….of toch wel

    De wethouder stelde al vanaf het begin (in de media overigens) dat het besluit van de raad niet helder was. Dat is toch erg vreemd, aangezien het besluit gebaseerd was op alle informatie die het college zelf aan de raad had gegeven. Het college kwam met scenario’s. Het college kwam met bijbehorende bedragen. Ontzettend helder. Desondanks stelt de wethouder in het voorstel dat de maanden nodig waren om helderheid te krijgen. Echter, wat later in het voorstel staat “Dit is enerzijds mogelijk gemaakt doordat u een helder kader hebt meegegeven”.De conclusie kan alleen maar zijn dat de opdracht wel degelijk helder was maar de wethouder op deze wijze tijd wou winnen die de raad hem op 3 juli niet wou geven.

  2. De kosten van de renovatie (voorstel 1)Nog in juli zei de wethouder dat “hij het standpunt van de heer Bokhove nuanceert die zegt dat voor de 1,2 miljoen euro alles uitgevoerd kan worden. Er komt namelijk nog een bedrag bij van de voorbereidingskosten die al gemaakt zijn.”. Nu is het zelfs al 1.866 miljoen. En dat in vier maanden.Ook is het bedrag niet in overeenstemming met  de projectbegroting van 2010 (hier te vinden).
    Het bedrag is navenant hoger, zodat voorstel 2 gunstig afsteekt. In alle informatie die we gekregen hebben staan veel lagere bedragen. Dit waren volgens de wethouder ‘betrouwbare ramingen’.Ook als je naar de bedragen voor architect e.d. kijkt dan zijn die veel lager dan de bijna 5 ton die er nu bij komt. De eerste raming (waar staat die eigenlijk) van 1.375 mln komt uit de lucht vallen.

    Daarnaast is de raming door hetzelfde bedrijf gedaan als die van het oorspronkelijke plan (!!). Dat lijkt me niet slim, en in tegenspraak met de opmerking dat de opdracht opnieuw aanbesteed zou moeten worden, argument om meer tijd te claimen. Je gaat toch niet onderhandelen met het bedrijf dat het duurdere plan al mag uitvoeren. Deze zal er alles aan doen om het grotere bedrag er uit te slepen! Terwijl in juli Noorman nog de hoop uitsprak dat een aanbesteding misschien ook nog een besparing kon opleveren.

    Tenslotte is het helemaal een gotspe om vanwege financiering het onderhoud uit te stellen en daarna te zeggen dat dit voor onderhoud gevolgen heeft gehad. Ook dat is in tegenspraak met eerdere opmerkingen dat het onderhoudsniveau nog in orde was, toen eerder werd gepleit voor uitstel ipv. een snelle aanvang van de renovatie. Dan geldt ook nog eens dat volgens het college de onderhoudsplannen op orde waren, dus dat we konden aannemen dat het bedrag dat uitgetrokken was (ruim) voldoende zou zijn om dat onderhoud ook echt te doen.

    De conclusie kan dan ook alleen maar zijn dat de kosten van voorstel 1 hoger worden voorgesteld dan ze eigenlijk zijn OF dat het college eerder foutieve, betrouwbare ramingen heeft verstrekt.

  3. Het bedrag van de volledige verbouwingWat heerlijk toevallig dat het tekort precies 340.000 euro is. Het is niet duidelijk of in de 2.512 miljoen alle voorbereiding ook zit. Dat zou nog knapper zijn, door het dralen is er bijna 5 ton bij de restauratie gekomen maar zijn de kosten voor de restauratie tonnen lager uitgevallen. En dat met “betrouwbare ramingen”. De 341k waren al in de begroting verwerkt. Dus men ging er van uit dat het toch wel door zou gaan? Interessant dat de 341.000 NIET wordt meegenomen bij voorstel 1. Plotseling, hoewel de 6 ton voor de inrichting 4 maanden geleden nagenoeg binnen was, is er nu blijkens de NHD van 2/11/12 ‘maar’ 450k. Wel is er toevallig een ton extra die de stichting kan bijdragen.De conclusie is dat de kosten van voorstel 2 lager worden voorgesteld dan ze eigenlijk zijn.
  4. Hoe de gemeente om gaat met subsidies

    Het voorstel weet te melden dat:“Wij hebben bovendien bij diverse instanties en vooral bij het college van GS van de provincie Noord Holland het unieke van dit project onder de aandacht gebracht en daaraan toegevoegd dat onze gemeente haar verantwoordelijkheid heeft en de kosten van sec de restauratie daarom voor haar rekening neemt.”Dat is helemaal mooi. Dus de gemeente heeft alle kansen op fondsen voor alleen restauratie de kop ingedrukt door dit zo te stellen. Het lijkt allemaal in het kader van een onafwendbare keuze voor voorstel 2. Ook raar is dat op de avond van 3 juli de wethouder nog zei: “Als de provincie geld geeft, doet zij dat op basis van een verordening. De enige garantie is de 400.000 euro, als de gemeente dit tenminste niet eindeloos laat wachten. Er is een mondelinge toezegging dat er nog een paar maanden uitstel mogelijk is. Op basis van de uitkomst van vanavond gaat er morgen een brief naar de provincie. Als de gemeente overgaat tot een ander plan, moet zij dat geld teruggeven.”.. Toen was het alles of niets. De wethouder stuurde geen brief, ging wel onderhandelen, maar blokkeerde elke kans op geld voor alle scenario’s anders dan voorstel 2.Conclusie: het college overdreef de feiten op 3 juli 2012, stuurde geen brief en overlegde met de provincie maar alleen om voor voorstel 2 geld te krijgen, en niet meer voor voorstel 1, het besluit van de raad.
  5. De provincie is ook raar bezig

    Tenslotte, maar daar kan de gemeente niets aan doen, vind ik het opvallend dat de provincie binnen 11 dagen (sluitingsdatum regeling 19 oktober, 30 oktober al beslissing) 350k meer aan subsidie geeft. Zeker als de rekenmethode nog steeds hetzelfde is: als subsidieplafond bereikt wordt dan rangschikking percentage gevraagd geld gedeeld door subsidiabele kosten. Die eerste is omhoog van 400k naar 750k, die tweede omlaag naar 2.512 miljoen. Dat percentage zal toch ontzettend hoog liggen.Twee conclusies zijn maar mogelijk: of er zijn niet zo veel aanvragen. Of er is wat ‘geregeld’.Knap als de gemeente dat voor elkaar kreeg, raar van de provincie.

Op basis van het voorgaande kun je tot de conclusie komen dat:
–         het college op valse gronden het voorstel niet heeft uitgevoerd, om tijd te winnen, die de raad op basis van alle informatie niet wou geven;
–         de informatievoorziening bij dit dossier of nu of in vorige jaren fout was;
–         het college er alles aan deed om een andere uitkomst dan die ze zelf wou te blokkeren (dat heet ‘het noodlot een handje helpen’);
Normaal gesproken is dit alles een politieke doodzonde, en genoeg om……een kleine prijs, naar ik aanneem, om het project wel te laten doorgaan.

Ondanks alle retoriek van de wethouder is het overduidelijk dat de wethouder geen nee wilde horen van de raad. Alles wordt in het werk gesteld om de eigen zin door te drammen. Je zou kunnen zeggen “ja, maar as het de gemeente nou niets extra’s kost?”.

Ik kan daar alleen maar op zeggen dat:
Het geen cent extra mag kosten. Behalve 341.000 euro?
Het geen cent extra mag kosten, maar wel van ongeveer 40% bijdrage gemeente naar bijna 70%?

Nu al te veel, het kan alleen maar meer worden. In deze moeilijke tijden, in een stad met vele andere cultuurplekken, onverantwoord.


Over de afdrachtregeling van de SP (Dutch)

Om de zoveel tijd is er weer wat commotie rond de afdrachtregeling van de SP. Dit gebeurt meestal als er iemand is die om een bepaalde reden zijn/haar afdracht niet meer doet. Ik draag al jaren mijn wedde af, en heb daarbij nooit het gevoel gehad dat ik geknecht werd door de SP. Afdragen gebeurt door een zg. “cessie” in te vullen die er voor zorgt dat de bijdrage, en nadrukkelijk geen loon is, rechtstreeks naar de SP wordt overgemaakt. Van de SP krijg ik vervolgens 25% van de bijdrage terug op mijn rekening. Het is een vrijwillige keuze, waar ik met open ogen “ja” tegen heb gezegd. Iemand anders kan en mag dat natuurlijk dom vinden, en zeggen dat hij/zij dat zelf nooit zou doen. Prima, natuurlijk, dat moet eenieder zelf weten. Toch worden er soms ook grotere woorden gebruikt om de onwenselijkheid van de afdracht te beschrijven. Zo ook Kees v/d Malen in een artikel in het Haarlems Dagblad.

Het argument dat ik het meeste hoor is die van “Volksvertegenwoordigers horen financieel niet gebonden te zijn aan enige partij, ook niet als dat de partij is die ze vertegenwoordigen.”. Het is dan maar goed dat de SP de afdrachtregeling heeft. Het zijn juist de partijen die geen of weinig afdracht hebben, die een volksvertegenwoordiger afhankelijk doen laten zijn van geld, die daarom ook niet zonder last kunnen beslissen. Immers, als je die paar honderd (of soms in grotere gemeentes meer dan 1000 euro) euro een volgende periode zou moeten missen dan is dat nogal een aderlating. Naar mijn mening zorgt dat voor risicomijdend gedrag; je wilt immers een volgende periode ook weer op die lijst staan. Volksvertegenwoordigers moeten in het openbaar bestuur gaan om iets voor hun omgeving te betekenen, en niet omdat er een wedde tegenover staat. Het is ook niet “een gewone baan” natuurlijk. En ook even logisch beschouwd: is de partij die AFHANKELIJK is niet de partij waar het geld naar toe gaat. Dat is dus de SP zelf die afhankelijk is van haar afdragenden? Ik kan prima zonder last in de raad opereren. Gaat het “fout” dan “mis” ik een volgende termijn maar een klein bedrag.

Een volksvertegenwoordiger moet zonder last kunnen beslissen. Ik constateer dat hier een probleem zit met ons partijenstelsel. Alleen als politieke partij kun je aan verkiezingen meedoen. Personen stemmen op partijen, maar een volksvertegenwoordiger zit volgens de kieswet ook als individu in een vertegenwoordigend orgaan. Dat is natuurlijk een zeer rare situatie. Stel een individuele VVD-er pleit voor communisme in Nederland, na een campagne die gebaseerd is op liberale principes. Dat zou ik gek vinden. Evenzo een SP-er die pleit voor meer marktwerking. Het is volkomen redelijk om van personen op een kieslijst te verlangen dat ze een verkiezingsprogramma onderschrijven. Waarom zou dat nou ook niet kunnen gelden voor de afdrachtregeling? Er worden regelmatig doembeelden geschetst alsof de SP straks eenieders loon, volgens communistisch principe, zou incasseren en vervolgens herverdelen. Wat een onzin. De afdrachtregeling is een duidelijke afspraak die je vrijwillig aan gaat. Je HOEFT het er niet mee eens te zijn.

Ook wordt vaak gemeld dat de SP al een rijke partij is. Dat klopt. Door afdracht, die vrijwillig wordt gedoneerd, verzamel je redelijk wat geld om acties, krantjes enz. te bekostigen. Pardon, mag ik zelf bepalen of ik afdracht voor dat doel goed vind? De reden voor afdracht is niet om zo rijk mogelijk te worden, maar is juist de gedachte dat SP-ers financieel niet profiteren of inschieten bij volksvertegenwoordigend werk. Het is geen baantje waar je een marktconform salaris voor hoort te ontvangen. Je moet het doen om wat voor de samenleving te betekenen.

Natuurlijk zijn er ook grijze gebieden bij de afdracht. Zo kunnen omstandigheden tijdens een termijn in de gemeenteraad opeens veranderen (ontslag bijv.). Hoewel ik dat zelf nooit mee heb hoeven maken, is mijn ervaring dat hier goed over te praten valt met het landelijke bureau. Al is het niet allemaal even duidelijk. Zo is er wel eens een zaak geweest waarbij iemand een dag minder in de week wou werken om haar raadswerk beter te doen. Ze vond het geoorloofd om daarom minder geld af te dragen, want dit zou het verloren salaris kunnen compenseren. Hoewel begrijpelijk, werkt het zo natuurlijk niet. Van tevoren was bekend dat dergelijke verzoeken niet gehonoreerd zouden worden. Als je daar problemen mee hebt, teken dan niet!

Tenslotte is er ook nog zoiets als precedentwerking. Of we het nou willen of niet, mensen zitten nou eenmaal zo in elkaar dat als zij zien en horen dat iemand anders voor gelijk werk meer krijgt dan een ander, dat niet helemaal eerlijk vinden. Misschien had ik mijn geld ook wel willen afdragen aan een goed doel. Toch was van tevoren bekend hoe de regeling in elkaar stak, en als ik daar problemen mee had had ik óf moeten proberen die regels te veranderen (ik vrees dat dit lastig wordt, in weerwil van alle kritiek, zijn de meeste SP-ers vóór de huidige afdrachtregeling) of gewoon niet meedoen. Dat laatste is dan jammer, maar een volkomen geaccepteerde redenering: als je een afspraak niet wilt onderschrijven, dan kun je niet meedoen.