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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Labour Assembly Member casts doubt on intelliegence of her voters

I am grateful to the Wales on Sunday Spin Doctor column for drawing my attention to the comments of the Labour Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Rathbone as part of her contribution to a debate on Wednesday about more transparency and accountability in local government.

Ms. Rathbone stood up to oppose Councils publishing details of every item of expenditure over £500 because she was afraid that voters would not have the capacity to understand it:

Jenny Rathbone: I think that there is confusion in the Conservatives’ minds as to whether transparency and accountability are the same thing; they are not. Transparency is extremely important; it is very important that people know what their councils are up to and what they are spending their money on. However, publishing every item of expenditure over £500 is simply not being transparent; it is just bombarding people with information and trying to obscure their ability to find out what is going on. Information has to be presented in bite-sized chunks. Otherwise, people will simply not be able to understand what is being presented.

Janet Finch-Saunders: Thank you for taking the intervention. Most councils across Wales have this information to hand, as they work on medium-term budgeting, but it is just that it is not published. Where do you see the difficulty in making that information public?

Jenny Rathbone: I do not see the difficulty in making the information public. I am saying that, in order to be accountable, information has to be presented in a format that is understandable to people. You have to bear in mind that most people need it in the format that is presented by the “The Sun ”or the “Daily Mirror, ”because if you simply present it as closely written lines along the lines of what “The Times ”newspaper used to look like, people will not read it and will not be any further along in understanding what their council is up to.

As the Wales on Sunday says: was Jenny Rathbone calling her electorate 'thick'? Well...er..very possibly!
Mathew McCarthy told me of a doorstep with a Labour supporter in Margam recently. I paraphrase:

LS: You won't get in here because you don't come from here.

MMcC: Margam people are not that small-minded.

LS: Yes they are.

"Information has to be presented in bite-sized chunks. Otherwise, people will simply not be able to understand what is being presented."
This sounds like the old Tony Blair mantra:
"Think in headlines"

Actually I have heard the same sentiment expressed by members of the Public about Assembly Members
(P B excluded of course)
Well Peter, I've shown you the Graphs on WIMD....
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