Tuesday, 27 January 2009

YOU DIDN'T HEAR IT FROM ME - SCRUTINY 2

Now here's a curious thing. I can blog about tonight's Overview and Scrutiny Panel anytime up until it started at 7pm and anytime after it finishes but not during the meeting. The same applies to Full Council. I must not relay the proceedings of the meetings. Why does Thanet have this rule?

Might something be broadcast sending hordes of people from their armchairs to protest at the Scrutiny Panel? Well members of the public rarely attend and are as rare as dahlias flowering in my garden in winter. Indeed after the meeting has started the Council often locks the doors so if a member of the public arrives late that's it.

Probably the most contentious issue in Local Government in the last 12 months has been the tragic death of Baby P. Yet talking to 2 of my friends who are Haringey Councillors Sheila Peacock and Emma Jones, they were clear that they would broadcast proceedings even of the most difficult and turbulent meetings.

The meetings were broadcast via the internet and this stream was taken by television so millions saw local democracy in action. In my view partly as a result of the broadcasting of these Haringey Council meetings the Council Leader and Chair of Social Services resigned. They were held to account for the failings on their watch.

Yet much as I would love to keep you keenly informed about the "Allocation of £50,000 funding to the East Kent Cluster by Kent and Medway Improvement Partnership" (Don't you just love local government jargonese?). I can't, at least not while we are talking about it.

When we discussed the controversial China Gateway you dear reader should have been able to sit at your laptop and monitor us. Sadly Thanet Council chose to exclude you from what should have been an open democratic process.

We have the technology, but the will to be open is not part of the current culture of Thanet Council.

5 comments:

  1. So, would a member of the public be banned from blogging 'in session'.

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  2. "Indeed after the meeting has started the Council often locks the doors so if a member of the public arrives late that's it."

    I must say Ive never come across that and Ive been coming to meetings since 2004, though maybe this is specifically an Overview and Scrutiny Panel thing. Im worried that you as a Member of the Scrutiny Panel would rather ponce around on your laptop than pay full attention to the matter at hand. I would have been disappointed for example to see you blogging away while Cllr Gideon was setting out the framework for Thanet Works last night. I agree that perhaps theres some potential for the public broadcast of Council meetings through the Internet as KCC has done in the past, but Councillors blogging while the meeting is underway is something I dont agree with.

    The Haringey resignations were not because the meetings were broadcast as they would have been forced to resign anyway. They were because of their complete failure to watch their briefs.

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  3. Sorry, but since when has Thanet Council been interested in the people of Thanet, Lining their own pockets maybe, but the folk of Thanet never.

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  4. James, good to welcome a non-anonymous Conservative to the site. Locked doors yes it is Scrutiny thing I have had a word so hopefully won't be a future problem.

    On live blogging, if I was taking written notes would you have a problem? I don't think so I am surprised a young person is against the use of new technology? Why?

    On Haringey I know that the petitions, letters and emails all increased after the media coverage. I agree they would have been forced to resign eventually, I still think it was better the process was done with the public seeing things directly for themselves, rather than getting inaccurate second hand reports as yours is on my use of my blackberry.

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