Croydon Council Public Questions Fiasco Continues

The new style Council questions fiasco continues. The minutes of the 5 December Council meeting show that the questions and answers are summarised, not set out in full. I therefore wrote to the Committee Manager, saying

  1. Summarising that basis of each question rather than setting out the exact wording of questions does not allow readers to judge whether the question has been properly answered. The summary of my question totally distorts what it is about. If under the new system questions are not going to minuted properly people may think it is a complete waste of time asking questions and the cynical may think that this is the point of the change in the treatment.
  2. I understand that more public questions were submitted than could be asked in the time available. They are not listed by name of member of public and topic so there is a record at least of the issues people have raised.
  3. If there were more public questions than are recorded are the people who submitted them being informed of the answers.’

His reply:

  1. Questions asked at the meeting are captured both in the webcasting (which is broadcast live and stored for public viewing on the website) and in the minutes, which are published after being approved by Council. Minutes are not transcripts of what is said at meetings, however anyone wanting the full wording of a question asked can refer to the webcast.
  2. Pre-submitted questions that were unable to be put by the Mayor during the meeting are sent to the relevant Cabinet Member for response. The response is emailed to the questioner and also published online. When published online, the front sheet of the document lists who the questioner was, the relevant cabinet member, and the topic that the question covers.
  3. As stated above, where any pre-submitted question isn’t answered at the meeting, a written response is emailed to the questioner, and is published online.

Here’s an example of how the answer to a question is distorted. On the webcast Cabinet member Mark Watson says:

‘Money going into Thornton Heath is specifically the money allocated for some time there. A number of initiatives are going on in Norbury to support the businesses up there. I was up talking to local residents and businesses in Norbury. Some of the businesses there want to set up a BID to support businesses there. So there is work going into our District Centres. I have done an active campaign of going round all of our District Centres to see what can be done, to see what investment is needed in those areas to support those. I have been doing the same thing in Norbury to support the District Centre up there but we have to clear that those tranches of money are no longer available for that sort of investment.’ (Editorial emphasis)

The minute states: ‘‘Paul Cowling asked why Norbury was not receiving funding compared to other Wards such as Thornton Heath. Councillor Watson responded that work was being done in Norbury, such as the setting up of a Business Improvement District (BID), as were other district centres in the borough.’

No mention of the fact there is no longer any money.

Webcasts only stay up for a few months. None of the webcasts prior to June are now on the Council website.

For background see my Croydon Citizen article at:

http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/new-transparent-openness-rules-council-questions-orwellian-news-speak

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About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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