Public Questions to the Council

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    There has always been an issue about the timing for Public Questions to go to an Executive meeting. The timing is such that the question has to be submitted by midday on the Wednesday before the Executive on the following Tuesday. The Public papers come out on the Thursday after the deadline making it impossible for anyone to ask a question on what the Executive are debating. This means the Public often could only ask a question at an Executive meeting after they have debated a topic.
    Council Members who are not part of the Executive can submit pre-prepared questions up to the Friday before the Executive meet.



    Is it just this council that seeks to frustrate the local public? Or is this a general trend across the country. The person who left the meeting in disgust yesterday pretty much sums up how quite a lot of people feel. By carrying out that act, they made a bigger and more resounding point than fully paid-up councillors squabbling but not being able to do so effectively due to a farcical microphone set-up.

    There should be a much better set-up for public participation rather than the system you described, if people felt like they could at least voice concerns at meetings, the council would not get so publicly trashed on social media and this disconnect between the Exec Board (I’m not doubting individual councillors provide assistance in their local wards) and the rest of the townsfolk would perhaps become less severe.

    As it stands public unhappiness and alienation is only going to keep rising, but due to an apathetic voting public the status quo is not going to change for years.



    Even when questions are submitted in time, they are ignored by the council – please see my open letter below
    Open letter to councillor Hugh Jones, Deputy Leader WCBC
    12 September 2017

    Councillor Hugh Jones – we need to talk.
    We need to talk about homelessness in Wrexham. We need to talk about the Groves school. We need to talk about the people who are living in the grounds. We need to talk about homelessness generally. We need to talk about the scale of the problem. We need to talk about the impact of the problem. We need to talk about what actions are currently being taken, and how effective they are. We need to talk about what your plans are for the homeless in the future, and we need to talk about how you will measure how effective those plans are in reducing the problems.
    Councillor Jones, we’ve tried. We’ve rang your office. We’ve sent you emails. Now nearly 600 of us, including the shadow chancellor, have signed a petition asking you to talk. You haven’t answered us. We don’t believe that you want to talk about it, but we do. We know that this issue isn’t going to be resolved without talking.

    We’ve tried to make you talk. We used existing democratic process to submit our questions to you, and the other members of the executive committee, so that they could be asked at your executive meeting today. Our options were limited by process to a maximum of 5 questions. We thought long and hard and put them to you. 4 of these questions were hand delivered, by us, last Wednesday at 11.30am. Two of those questions were also submitted by email on Wednesday morning.

    Councillor Jones, that’s within the parameters of your protocol.
    Your officer replied in writing to one of us, explaining that the question was received too late. We emailed back with proof that it wasn’t. Your officer acknowledged that it was received in time. Councillor Jones, 4 of the questions were delivered at the same time. The receipt says 4 letters. It’s timed at 11.29.
    Your officer emailed a response to one of us. He acknowledged that it was received in time.

    For the record, these were the questions submitted.

    Could this council please advise how many individuals who were previously sleeping rough or living in insecure accommodation have been rehoused in secure long term social housing accommodation by this council over the past 3 years?

    Could this council please advise. How many individuals are currently sleeping rough and/or using night shelters, bed and breakfasts or any other insecure accommodation within the Wrexham County Borough?

    Could this council please advise what is the allocated budget to tackle homelessness for the year 2017/18, how that compares per homeless individual to previous years and how many estimated homeless individuals will be rehoused in long term accommodation by using this budget?

    Can this council please outline the services and initiatives in place to tackle the issue of homelessness moving forward, and what outcome measures will be used to ascertain the success of these initiatives? ie how will this council judge how effective the measures taken are?

    Could this council please advise how many individuals with no fixed abode, or who were sleeping in insecure accommodation (to include shelters, bed and breakfast etc) have died of any cause over the past 3 years?

    Councillor Jones, at commencement of the executive committee meeting this morning, you were sat next to councillor Mark Pritchard. You will have heard him say, as we did, roughly 1 minute into the meeting, that no public nor member questions had been submitted. This is a lie councillor Jones. Did he know he was lying? Did you? Was this a deliberate attempt to shut down the debate?

    We tried to raise our objections – tried to stand up and challenge the lie. Councillor Jones, the chair ruled out of order and silenced us.

    Councillor Jones, those aren’t our only questions. We thought long and hard before deciding on our 5 questions – we wanted to be sure we addressed our main concerns, but those aren’t all our concerns. We have others.
    We have many others. Like ‘why are there no services available to supply food between Thursday morning and Friday evening?’ or ‘how will this council fill the void left when the salvation army are no longer able to provide shelter?’ and ‘why are the old county court buildings, which this council owns, lying 90% empty when they could easily be converted to sleeping accommodation and an integrated service hub in line with the council’s expressed philosophy?’
    But after this morning maybe the pertinent questions are why has this council expended so much energy to divert the democratic process? And what has this council got to hide?

    Councillor Jones, we were then subjected to the spectacle of the chair closing down questions of councillor Dana Davies and Councillor Carrie Harper.
    In a flagrant display of arrogance and misogyny we watched the chair close off any reference to the Groves school by these two councillors, claiming that discussion around the Groves would ‘lower the tone of the debate’. This, despite the fact, obvious to all present, that the lead officer Councillor Phil Wynn, had not been prevented from discussing the Groves.

    Councillor Jones, we left the public gallery in disgust. Disgust that what is clearly the matter of most pressing public interest at this time was disregarded so blatantly. Disgust that the chair had manipulated the agenda in order to avoid difficult issues and difficult questions.

    Councillor Jones, you have our petition. We need to talk, because winter is coming and these issues aren’t going away.
    And neither are we.
    Angie Hammons
    Nick Claffey
    Tracey Jones
    Nicola Price
    Laura Seddon
    On behalf of Help Wrexham’s Homeless



    If what is stated actually happened then a complaint should be made to the Standards Committee in the Council and if no satisfaction to the Wales Public Service Ombudsman



    It has now been established that questions were submitted to the Executive Board in the correct manor. Surely common courtesy would have been for the Council Leader to acknowledge that questions were received together with a short statement why he was refusing their authors , 3 minutes of speaking time. Better still he could have allowed them to use the 3 minutes allowed and if a reply needed specific detailed information ,unavailable at the time , then a written answer could have been promised. Public participation should be encouraged and embraced by the Council.



    Absolutely – it was a disgrace!
    What are they playing at?

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