Why is Conservative Councillors Association membership compulsory?
Just a thought, but do we need the Conservative Councillors Association (CCA)? I value their rapid news bulletin and I think they have a great reception at conference. However, do they actually add any value to being a Conservative Councillor? Maybe I've not seen all their true value and don't fully immerse myself in their activities. But I'm a fairly active councillor, I involve myself in the wider party and I use many of the tools available from the wider party – but I just don't think about using the CCA.
So is this my fault or is it theirs? They exist, but to what end? What is their purpose? Is it a trade union for Conservative Councillors or a job creation programme for researchers and staff paid for by a tax on being a Conservative and a Councillor? What pressure and influence do they have on the national party's local government policy? Do they engage their members and find out what policies, issues and concerns they need to lobby on? If so, how, and to what demonstrable effect?
I am sure the idea of a grouping for Conservative councillors could be a good one. I am also sure that the staff, officers and board members are well-meaning. I just can't help thinking though that we're no better off for having the CCA, but are £30 a year lighter in our pockets. It is time for a debate on the CCA and to work out if the £300,000 or thereabouts they collect a year provides the best return.
In my opinion there is a need for a pressure group to share best policy in Conservative local government, acting as a think tank and moving the local Government debate forward. We need to engage and develop councillors, improve their understanding of politics and campaigning in ways that other organizations do not. But to charge £30 a member just for the privilege of an 'Input Magazine' and an e-mail a week – both of which the party should be providing anyway? Why make it compulsory, why make it a pillar of the party and why not set it free to think in a way that many other affiliated and connected bodies in the Conservative sphere do?
I want to see the CCA set free, and make it stand on its own two feet. It can sink or swim based on its own worth to councillors - just like the host of other special interest and pressure groups within the party. No one suggests all party members should be obliged to join the Conservative Friends of Israel, or the Conservative Christian Fellowship. So why should we be forced to join the CCA?