Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Black Day for local Democracy - 2

The troubled Tories who run Lincolnshire County Council have come up with a novel way to avoid answering awkward questions.

This Friday the all-Tory Executive on Lincolnshire County Council will propose banning all written questions at future meetings.

For more than 30 years, elected members have been able to raise issues by tabling written questions in advanced of council meetings – and having a written answer from a member of the Executive published on the record in the Council papers.

With Lincolnshire desperately needing to recover confidence and trust after its recent troubled past, I believe the people of our county deserve greater openness and increased democracy, not less.

Written Questions played a vital role in exposing the behaviour of disgraced Conservative Leader Jim Speechley.

After Speechley went to jail for abuse of power, written Questions raised issues about the competence and behaviour of his successor, Councillor Ian Croft.

Last month, Croft was barred from being a councillor by the Standards Board of England who found he breached the Code of Conduct on nine occasions.

The Tories hate being held to account so much that they now want to ban written questions.

Instead they will allow a limited number of oral questions – but with more than 70 members, even getting a Question asked will be far less likely. The chances of a sensible answer will be even more remote.

But without a published written answer, it will simply not be possible to hold the Executive to account in the same way. And sometimes, it is not possible to ask a detailed oral question.

IMHO, just months after the threat of Government intervention has been lifted, the Tories are slipping back into their bad old ways.

Even Speechley’s regime never tried to ban written questions.

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