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Fighting Labour plans to gag public and councillors!

by gwynethdeakins on 4 January, 2017

LibDem Leader Cllr Ian Bond has been leading the fight against proposals from the Council’s Labour administration to ‘gag’ councillors and the public at Council meetings.

This follows on from Labour already having abolished local Area Committees, abolished local Planning Committees, moved most local decision-making behind closed doors at the Town Hall, and severely curtailed the opposition’s ability to challenge decisions at Council meetings.

The new proposals are published here (the documents attached to Agenda Item 7a), and include:

  • abolition of yet more committees, with less opportunity for Labour councillors to be challenged;
  • abolishing two Council meetings every year, reducing the total from eight to six;
  • cutting the length of both public question time and councillors’ question time;
  • banning the public from asking questions of Cabinet Members unless about an item on the agenda;
  • changing Council meetings to allow set speeches from Labour Cabinet members with no opportunity for the opposition to reply;
  • stopping councillors and the public from asking supplementary questions to follow up the first answer;
  • Labour leading scrutiny of its own decisions after they have been made – something Labour always fought when in opposition (the last coalition council allowed Labour’s opposition to lead scrutiny).

They even propose stopping reading out questions at council meetings and stopping providing written copies of answers – so that the questions would be seen but not heard and the answers heard but not seen!  Anyone listening to the website audio wouldn’t have a clue what the answer being given was about!

Both LibDem and Conservative councillors have expressed very strong opposition, and after a meeting yesterday Labour has indicated it may be prepared to abandon at least the most outrageous of the proposals.  This will be discussed at a committee meeting next Monday, and then decided at Council meetings later this month and finally in late March.

Labour say their proposals are ‘only draft’ and come from Council officers (who work for them!).  But they have already been through several meetings of Labour councillors – including one meeting of the whole Labour Group – before being published.

Cllr Bond said:  “This is the most miserable set of proposals I have seen in my 23 years on the Council, and an utterly shabby piece of work which fundamentally misunderstands how the Council works and what residents expect from us.  No evidence is provided as to why the current opportunity that both councillors and residents have to ask questions is causing difficulty for the Council – other than the obvious one that Labour would rather not deal with anyone who doesn’t agree with them.”

This fiasco is further evidence that the new Labour Council in Redbridge is fundamentally hostile to openness, transparency, accountability and public participation.  Instead, they want to take every decision themselves, clamp down on any challenge to their rule, centralise everything in Ilford, take as many decisions as possible behind closed doors, and lead the scrutiny of their own decisions – all things that they opposed during their many years in opposition.

Cllr Bond added:  “They also appear incompetent, having published some self-evidently idiotic ideas that they will now have to abandon.”

 

 

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