North Lincolnshire Councillors work should be opened up properly to their electorate’s scrutiny once and for all
On the 17th July 2012 a rare event took place in the Scunthorpe Civic Centre and that event was a Full Council Meeting. I use the term “rare” because since the current North Lincolnshire (NL) Council ruling Conservative Party took over, these public meetings have been reduced to 4 per year, some would say even only 3.
At the same time council meetings since then now also start when people are at work, and are strictly controlled by the Conservative ruling body in regard to who can ask what, when and in what format because of changes to the meeting rules imposed by them when they took office.
Fair enough that’s local politics, it can be argued. The question now being asked in quiet corners by those with an interest in local politics however, is how far is too far before manipulation of this nature, local accountability and democracy can be seen to be nothing but farcical.
This again was highlighted at the last NL Full Council Meeting as publically recorded on web blogs by Andrea Davison a Labour Party Councillor (and supported by another NL Labour Cllr Mick Grant) who stated that NL Conservative Cllr John England shouted at a member of the public in the gallery that decisions to do with the future of a pond in Ashby are “nothing to do with you.” The person that Cllr England directed his remark at is reported to be a member of a public interest group formed, constituted AND recognised by Cllr England’s leader Cllr Liz Redfern, and a colleague of his Cllr Rob Waltham, both who have attended meetings of the group in the past. Labour Cllr Steve Swift on his web blog even reported Cllr England as resorting to hurling insults at members of the public opposed to proposals concerning the pond in question.
Now I have no reason to doubt the word of these Cllr’s, as I have witnessed this type of behaviour before when Conservative Cllr N Sherwood at the time of the Conservative’s taking over NLC shouted over the chamber like a child “we can do, because we can” or words to that effect in relation to some rule changes his side were imposing.
However, since taking control, our current Conservative NLC leadership have continued to have arguably shown nothing but contempt for their electorate when it comes to openness, transparency and accountability. This attitude is in direct conflict with that of the Prime Minister David Cameron who on the 13/7/11 in the House of Commons said “Democracy is Government by explanation.”
It is blatantly obvious to any interested party that these days what occurs in NL council meetings should be properly recorded (verbatim) and accessible to the public through the NLC website. Likewise all NLC meetings should be broadcast/podcast on the NLC website giving undisputable and irrefutable evidence of what goes on, obviously taking into account any “In Confidence” matters of course.
After all every month taxpayer’s money is paid to councillors in one guise or another to recompense them for their time and expense working as councillors, there is no justifiable reason why these councillors work shouldn’t be opened up properly to their electorate’s scrutiny once and for all. If it good enough for MP’s it is good enough for North Lincolnshire Councillors and local government.