Councillors voted blind. That’s what the News Shopper said last Wednesday about the Tesco vote. They did it again within hours of the headline appearing; councillors voted unanimously to severely curtail the ability of the public to question the council. The restrictions were supposedly listed in Appendix A to the Agenda but it was omitted from that publication. That Agenda is now to hand and the principal restrictions are…
• Questions must not be similar to others asked within the last six months.
We reserve the right to get tame lackeys to plant easy questions to block genuine questions by real residents
• Questions relating to operational matters will not be accepted.
Please don’t question us on our many failings and injustices because we find it embarrassing
• Questions on human resource issues are not permitted.
Don’t ask about the Chief Executive’s high pay level because the Minister might get to hear that we are taking no notice of him
• Questions relating to Licensing or Planning are not permitted.
If a lap dancing club is opened in your road, tough titty, it’s your problem
• The mayor or chairman of any meeting will have discretion to introduce any sanction they can imagine on any questioner if they feel he is not respectful of the chairman or mayor.
The mayor or chairman’s habit of singling out individual residents for special punishment must be protected
• If the questioner does not attend the meeting his question may not be answered.
We prefer that you stand mute with no permission to actually pose the question and listen to any non-answer we deign to give. You must accept ridicule and rude gestures by councillors and if you do not attend your humiliation session we won’t answer your question - so there!
• Names and addresses of questioners will be published on the web and elsewhere.
As our contribution to transparency we reserve the right not to have our own home addresses published on the council’s website and as your contribution we insist that you must agree to publication. Otherwise we think it is fair to disenfranchise you from the questioning process
The council twice rejected a request that the new rules included the need for councillors to actually answer questions, so Craske-style filibusters, non-answers and lies are still permitted but going back to try to get an answer later is now forbidden. What is left is questions on policy only, that have not been asked by anyone else - answered or not - from residents who have not expressed their discontent in some way or other. And if that isn’t enough to stop questioning there is the appointed gatekeeper to Fortress Bexley, one Eva Read, for yes, the council leak machine went into overdrive after yesterday’s blog and confirmed my speculation that the wife of councillor Philip Read is in charge of question acceptance. You must agree it’s a neat arrangement that any bent council would be proud of.