Sunday, 22 February 2009

THANET TORIES KEEP AVOIDING SCRUTINY

Spring is almost here, I saw this bee pollinating yesterday, hope it will find its way to the flowering peas in my greenhouse.

This letter was published in Kent on Sunday today.

"Dear Editor,

The people of Thanet were again excluded from seeing how their representatives spoke and voted on a critical issue last week. Just as on China Gateway the public galleries were full, and many people who wanted to see what was happening were prevented from doing so. To assist Northwood residents who could not be present I posted a detailed live report to my blog via my blackberry.

This has now been read by hundreds of local people and has been overwhelmingly favourably received. I did this because Thanet Council has refused my request for Council meetings to be broadcast live via the internet. Kent County Council for example does this, as do many other modern local authorities. It was embarassing that Councillors Tomlinson, Latchford and Ezekiel objecting during the meeting to this use of new technology.

All credit to Cllr. John Kirby, Chairing his last meeting for allowing me to continue. A number of Conservative councillors have approached me privately and thanked me for widening local knowledge of what was happening.

There are two concerns here. Firstly, by not broadcasting meetings, it gives the impression that Thanet Council is trying to avoid greater public scrutiny. Secondly and more importantly the conduct of the 3 Cabinet members gives a very poor impression. To the many business people in the room it showed that Thanet Council's leaders were frightened of new technology, and did not understand it.

One businessman said that it gave the appearance that making a party political attack was more important to Cllrs Tomlinson, Latchford and Ezekiel than giving as many local people as possible access to what their councillors were doing. In a fast moving world all political parties want greater investment and jobs for Thanet. The Council's leading representatives need to embrace this, not oppose it. I trust the Chief Executive will arrange necessary training for those Councillors who are not up to speed.

All councillors need to be able to advocate for Thanet using 21st century techniques and knowledge. All Labour councillors want to see Council meetings broadcast. I hope the Conservative Group will change the minds of its leaders. Local people want to be able to watch Council meetings on their computers just as easily as they already watch BBC IPlayer programmes."

This was also featured on page 2 of the Isle of Thanet Gazette yesterday. Your Thanet have featured the story here.

Click here for a live blog posted directly by D. Carswell Conservative MP from the House of Commons.

Click here for a Cabinet Minister using a Blackberry on the front bench.

Click here for a debate by Conservative activists with more comment from me.

Canterbury Conservatives join forces with Thanet Tories to try and resist the 21st century here.
Do read the comments on how little this could cost.

My new friend Phil Rose puts it very well here, note Mike Harrison's comment.

I will add one more thought to Phil's analysis. In Thanet most Conservative councillors rarely speak in the Council Chamber. Many are like Trappist monks. I am told by my colleagues there may be more than double figures awaiting their debuts, some of them elected before 2007. One is famously abroad, absent for months at an end.

You can draw your own conclusions as to why Thanet Conservatives oppose greater scrutiny of their performance. One Conservative Home activist in the link above said

"What has the councillor's political party got to do with things? I don't expect this site to be unbiased, far from it. However I'm tiring of politics being played where the issue is non-political."
I agree, but if he met Thanet Tories he would find people who make political dividing lines unnecessarily, just to try and score points. They waste so much energy on this they neglect running the Council. Thanet Council Tax increase is above inflation for the fifth year running, and is the highest that I can find in the country. More on that later.

2 comments:

  1. If it is true that double-figure tories have not spoken once in council since they were elected then that is beyond a joke. Why exactly did they choose to become councillors??

    And by the way I would not vote labour or conservative!

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  2. By speaking I mean making a contribution to a debate, not formally proposing or seconding or saying yes/no to a rollcall vote. I have been on since 2007 and from my memory (not the best system) I reckon that since 2007 of the 3 Groups 1 of the 3 Independents has never spoken, 3 of the 19 Labour, and 11 of 34 Conservatives have never spoken. I have missed meetings so this is not defintive. Some of these may have spoken before 2007.

    If we had broadcasting someone could sit down and calculate (what a job!) as it is you have to get DVDs and could go through them to work this out.

    If we'd had relatively uncontroversial times the figures might be understandable. However, there is robust debate between the main parties. On top of that the major issues of Thanet Earth, China Gateway and Manston Expansion should surely mean that representatives should have expressed their and their constituents views on at least one of these subjects?

    As to your question why they chose to become councillors my observation for some of those who have not spoken would be:

    1. The Social Life
    2. The money £4,360 basic allowance
    3. The status

    The same sort of problem of non-contribution also applies to the Scrutiny Committee from a significant minority.

    ReplyDelete