Money Talks

When money talks, democracy has no voice.

 

Bloor’s letter to the Cape Times:-

Strengthening policy-driven certainty is critical for an open liberal market economy

The City of Cape Town is considering an amendment to its System of Delegations for the Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning matters. In light of the recent media coverage on this matter it is important to clarify what is being considered.

Amongst others, the proposed revised delegations are designed to ensure that decisions made by Sub-Councils are grounded in policy. They are not designed to diminish the role of sub-councils.

Sub-Councils are important actors in the public participation process and commenting on policy and local area plans as representatives closest to the people. We acknowledge and value this role.

We believe in the principle of decentralising power to communities. Decentralisation however does not change the nature of how decisions should be made. Arbitrary decision making – regardless of the level it’s made at- leads to uncertainty. This can undermine individual rights when decisions are taken that go against existing policy and it is not good for the market. The proposed amendments seek to ensure that individual rights are not undermined and the market has more certainty.

It is good governance to implement policies that have gone through a public participation process and have been agreed upon.

Individuals and associations of individuals within communities are actively invited to participate in informing policy formulation. What is problematic is when individuals or groups of individuals insist that in the name of community rights other stakeholders cannot exercise their existing rights, in line with current democratically-created legislation.

Uncertainty undermines investor confidence for everyone from the small applicant to large job creating enterprises. An environment where individuals are certain that they are equal before the law and where there is process certainty is an essential part of a democratic and opportunity rich society.

Certainty (both insofar as process and outcome are concerned) is cited by investors as the most important incentive the city can offer. That certainty includes Council saying no to development in some areas and yes in others. But that certainty can only be grounded in policy and laws.

In a democracy the nature of that decision cannot undermine the rights of another to equality of consideration under policies that are applied equally across the whole city. This is irrespective of the degree of centralisation or decentralisation.

Democratic decision making at the local level involves active participation in policy formulation, but it should not accommodate the right of politicians or any other individuals to go against policy and by-laws that are in effect at present.

Such an arbitrary approach is inconsistent with any basic legislative system and public participation –and undermines the spirit of the Constitution.

Decision- making officials are bound by policy and will continue to be held to account at the district level within communities. There will not be one centralised decision-maker, this would be impractical. As an illustration of the logistics involved, the City of Cape Town has to consider a building plan or planning application on average every three and a half minutes of every working day to keep up with the pressures of urbanisation and economic growth.

Having one head accountable is part of any organization’s structure and simply equates to good governance. He is accountable for implementation of policy, not its determination. That is a political function.

The City of Cape Town will continue to engage communities and strengthen its Sub-Council system. We are proud to be the only metro in the country to hold to such a decentralised model of governance. And we will continue to uphold these principles as far as they do not infringe on the rights of every individual to opportunity and equality before the law.

 

Councillor Garreth Bloor

Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning.

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