Author Topic: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy  (Read 3661 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Only one topic for Lamplighters this weekend - all the tittle-tattle, gossip and rumours are put on hold because several messages regarding the same event have been received at leaks@talkswindon.org

The topic:  Special Cabinet, this Wednesday, 31st March, 2010 6.15 p.m.

The special cabinet has been called to consider only two agenda items:

1. Officer Directorship of Digital City UK Limited

2. Loan Advance to Digital City UK Limited

About the 'Open Cabinet Forum', the SBC website says

"A Cabinet Open Forum is held at 6:00 p.m. prior to the start of each scheduled Cabinet Meeting. The Open Forum is similar to the ‘public question time’ that happens at most Council meetings but without the need for questions. It provides the chance to meet with Cabinet Members as well as Group Directors and Directors to discuss matters relevant to the Cabinet and its responsibilities. It provides an opportunity to raise issues and give views.

The Forum will normally close at 6.30 pm and the Cabinet will then reconvene for the start of the formal Cabinet meeting. If the Open Forum completes its business earlier than anticipated then the Cabinet Meeting will commence at 6:15pm or at the Forum’s conclusion."


So, in practice this means the public get 30 minutes to ask away in a marginally less formal environment than they'll encounter later on in Committee Room 6.

The problem with the 'Open Cabinet Forum' is that it's effectively useless if you want to make a serious point and have it entered onto the public record, but it is effective from the administrations point of view in that a member of the public who has asked a question in the 'open cabinet forum' is not likely to then go into te formal cabinet, where the proceedings are minuted, to ask their question again....ergo, their question never appears on the public record.

In effect it is a procedure designed to give the impression of open and participatory democracy, but which actually enables councillors to deliver exactly the opposite. 

Recently, a bunch of Talkswindon members attended a 'cabinet open forum' and, (I think other attending members will agree), it was obvious from Cllr Bluh's demeanour that he was hoping we would ask our questions in the open cabinet forum.  We did not, simply because we recognise that to do so is actually a waste of time and effort. 

To councillors Bluh's annoyance, we waited until the formal cabinet was convened and then asked questions which, we hope, will have been properly minuted, even if the answers were obfuscating and evasive.

It probably won't come as much of a surprise to those members and guest readers who have been following our coverage of the wifiasco to learn that Councillor Bluh and his cabinet colleagues are once again determined to corrupt democracy, this time by 'modifying' the open cabinet forum and delaying the opening of the formal cabinet meeting by up to 2hrs.

Douglas Campbell, the political assistant to the conservative group, (Douglas likes to be called the 'Staff Officer To The Cabinet'), has written to other councillors and 'invited' them to ask any questions they have regarding the wifiasco during the 'modified' open cabinet forum.

Here's what Dougie has mailed out:


Quote
From: Douglas Campbell <xxxxxxxxx@swindon.gov.uk>

Sent: Fri, 26 March, 2010

Subject: Open Forum/Open Councillor Forum

Dear All,

Leader of the Council, Councillor Roderick Bluh would like to invite all councillors to attend a modified open forum before the Cabinet meeting on 31 March.

 
The first part of open forum will start at 18.00 (6pm), as usual, for residents to make comments or ask questions on any aspects of the Cabinet’s work.

 

The second part will be an opportunity for any councillor to ask question about the Wi Fi project.  Please note, this will be an opportunity for questions, not speeches.

Up to two hours will be allowed for these two sessions and then the formal cabinet meeting will take place.
 

Councillor Bluh looks forward to seeing at 18.00 in the Council Chamber on 31 March

 
Douglas Chanda-Campbell (xxxxxxxxxxxx@swindon.gov.uk)

Conservative Group Political Assistant and Staff Officer to the Cabinet

Swindon Borough Council



If I were a Councillor I would have an immediate problem with this suggestion.  The correct 'forum' for an elected member to ask questions of the cabinet is at the formal cabinet meeting where his or her questions will be minuted, as will the answers to that question.

The 'open cabinet forum' is not the correct place for councillors to seek answers to their questions from the cabinet, and I hope members will boycott that part of the proceedings and wait until the cabinet meeting has convened formally before asking any.

As a member of the public I'm pissed off that I will potentially have to wait until 20.15 hrs before I can ask my question of cabinet.  I was due to start work at 20.30 hrs on Wednesday, but normally I'd be able to attend cabinet, ask my question and be away to work by 19.30 hrs. 

In my case, councillor Bluh's 'keep 'em busy to keep 'em out' scheme has worked perfectly.  The 'modified' cabinet meeting will prevent me from being able to ask my question and have it appear on the public record.

So well done Councillor Bluh, another step on the road to Banana Republic status has been successfully negotiated and any councillor who goes along with this latest corruption of local democracy should be ashamed of themselves.

This won't be forgotten quickly, nor will the names of those who 'followed orders' or just 'went along with it'.   

Come on Councillors, for once step up to the plate and give us an honest opinion on this.  Don't stand by and do nothing.



Offline Muggins

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Re: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2010, 08:41:22 AM »
Could it be you have reached the status of 'one of the gobby few that dominate every meeting' and everything will be done to make you uncomfortable, meetings called at times to prevent your attendance etc. etc.  They now bracket you as though you are preventing the normal democratic  :2funny: process by preventing others less vocal and confident to join in.

Congratulations on reaching that status.  Those of us already there welcome another one to our ranks.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2010, 08:47:46 AM »
Could it be you have reached the status of 'one of the gobby few that dominate every meeting' and everything will be done to make you uncomfortable, meetings called at times to prevent your attendance etc. etc.  They now bracket you as though you are preventing the normal democratic  :2funny: process by preventing others less vocal and confident to join in.

Congratulations on reaching that status.  Those of us already there welcome another one to our ranks.

No, I'm not quite there yet  :)

I just attend, watch, listen and take notes, then I ask my question and I leave.  I have never become gobby or tried to dominat any meeting I've attended.

What I have done is shared my experiences and thoughts with others, via this venue and the wider internet.  It is that, more than any other thing which has earned me the status of 'political insurgent' with the Tory group, some of whom are now grumbling that I'm 'interfering with the electoral process'.

You have to laugh.....

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2010, 11:20:42 AM »
This is a disgrace and anyone would now be utterly complicit if they voted Tory in either election.

Unless you say something about this now Robert and Justin you are guilty by association.
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Muggins

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Re: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2010, 04:54:40 PM »
Geoff says "No, I'm not quite there yet 

I just attend, watch, listen and take notes, then I ask my question and I leave.  I have never become gobby or tried to dominat any meeting I've attended."


Sorry Geoff, that enough for them to think you are and like I said welcome aboard!
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Lamplighters #14: Bluh & Co Further Corrupt Local Democracy
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2010, 05:51:52 PM »
Quote
Geoff Reid
Come on Councillors, for once step up to the plate and give us an honest opinion on this.  Don't stand by and do nothing.

I made my points on my blog in a rush this morning before I went off to Chair a Central Cluster type forum about funding. It is beyond me why the Cabinet would want to give Cllrs time before a formal cabinet. I appear to be missing something. I have also replied to the email. As I have said I am at a meeting out of town on Wednesday night. But If I was here I would go to cabinet and ask my questions. I will now have to await scrutiny and if I am not available I will section 15 them for full council. These are the procedures within the council's constitution. I am content with that.
All posts on this forum are my own opinion and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana: