Too many questions suppressed by council
2:02pm Wednesday 18th July 2012 in Letters
WHEN the Liberal Democrats scored a dramatic success in last year's Cotswold District Council elections, I, along with many others, assumed it would lead to greater transparency and accountability within an administration that had been dominated for too long by one political party.
Sadly, new tactics being employed by the council are ensuring that vital issues that should be discussed openly in the council chamber are routinely suppressed.
Important questions to members of the cabinet have been rejected for spurious reasons when the underlying motivation is almost certainly to spare them from embarrassment.
I went into local politics to make a real difference to the Water Park community which I serve but I find it increasingly difficult to do the job in the face of blatant obstruction which is undermining free speech and the democratic process.
A recent question asking whether a Cabinet member who has had business dealings with the Watermark Group should really be involved in consideration of the fate of a number of Watermark owners facing the possible loss of their properties in enforcement proceedings was ruled out of order.
Along with a Liberal Democrat colleague, I later submitted a motion querying the decision to reject my question and went on to propose that this council: 1) Records its concern at this unnecessary restriction on free speech and democratic accountability; 2) Invites the Cabinet member to prepare and publish her own statement on the matter, in the manner carried out by the council leader recently; 3) Requests the overview and scrutiny committee investigate and report on the legal and internal ruling that has made this motion necessary.
I was shocked when that motion was rejected as well. The result is that an injustice which is causing financial harm and emotional distress to a number of my constituents has effectively been swept under the carpet.
The public can only have confidence in its politicians, national or local, if they are open and frank with the electorate. The past two years have been a bruising experience in Cotswold politics with leading figures on all sides facing the fallout from the Water Park scandal.
This has inevitably led to greater scrutiny of the business dealings of councillors but these recent attempts to prevent legitimate questions and kill off free speech are a worrying new development.
If it continues, the democratic process itself in the Cotswolds will be threatened and opposition councillors will no longer be able to hold the administration to account.
CLLR JULIET LAYTON Liberal Democrat Cotswold Water Park ward