February 13, 2018 at 10:38 pm #144684
I found the report here in Wrexham.com about the change of style of answering questions at the Executive Board meetings very disconcerting.
If we are now being told that between a Lead Member and relevant Senior Officer paid on the level they are do not know the answers to items within their own reports then they are just not up to the job in hand.
This is a blatant denial of open government with answers being provided after a meeting potentially just in an email to the Councillor asking the questions.
Will the Executive Board circulate as part of the minutes a report on any answers that could not be fielded at the meeting but subsequently answered directly to the questioner? I thought webcasting was about being open and transparent this method now closes the door on open government completely. In future, any Lead Member can close any form of questioning down in a Public Arean by saying answers to follow.
Improvements to sound system then closure of discussion — what a great move forwardFebruary 14, 2018 at 11:32 am #144716
I think it is high time that WCBC Executive Board, and especially the set up and responsibilities of the various department ‘Leads’, be questioned and Investigated by the Political Ombudsman. The way this council is set up is undemocratic in the extreme.February 14, 2018 at 12:33 pm #144717
The answers provided to the questions should be published either as an addendum to the minutes or in some other form. The public as well as the Councillors have a right to hear the replies. This should be in time for any follow up questions at the next Executive Board Meeting. It comes across as a deliberate ploy to stop the free flow of information and doesn’t embrace open and transparent communication.February 14, 2018 at 1:07 pm #144718
The thing is the current regime don’t want full open and transparent local government so the more bureaucracy they can use to muddy the waters the better & more authoritative & safe they feel.
You go back 10 years – pre-popular social media time & highly politically aware reporters & activists sharing & scrutinising council information. Councillors then could pretty much get away with whatever they wanted unless some kind of major public local outrage occurred. No-one was monitoring their meetings or reports on progress of different functions – the information was readily available but no-one cared & they just got on with running things with very little scrutiny or demands for intervention from the public.
Competency also wasn’t called into question as it was pre-2008 Global Financial Crisis, so it was the boom times & there was loads of public money to splash around & keep everyone happy. Also the retail sector was healthy, so a view of thriving business within the town meant most people were kept happy one way or another.
Nowadays thanks to vital sites like Wrexham.com and other highly engaged folk online – the Exec Board & every council decision is under a microscope. Now you have a mix of old school councillors who are not used to the intense scrutiny of the public & up & coming councillors who do have social media experience but struggle from the demands and opposition that come with putting your heart on your sleeve online when being a public figure. There are a few in opposition who are able to do it well but are often allied with local activists & a strong political party structure, which means they are well backed up. The rest honestly don’t know how to deal with it and that is why they end up turtle shelling & you get them coming up with more & more sophisticated ploys to hold up or bury information that leaves then wide open to uncomfortable questions or criticism.
It’s a natural political reaction, you only need to look at the Conservative Government, definitely on the back heel in terms of public opinion & favour, they keep their cards very close to the table, which is why many scandals only come out from leaks and undercover investigations. Plus they drag their heels on the publishing of crucial reports on contentious issues like Brexit.
Now I don’t agree with this style of closed Government nationally or locally at all & think it just forces those who want the information to get smarter & adapt to come up with more sophisticated measures needed to get the information out. Ultimately it’s a losing battle for those in power to try & be so secretive because once it finally comes out & it always does, the issue just becomes completely overblown & increases reputational damage. Also it leaves them wide open to speculation & rumour, which many people believe & then they are forced to debunk these rumours with the actual true position anyway.
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