Filming Council Meetings – Not getting answers at Council meetings

The link above is to a You Tube video of a Parish Council meeting in Beyton.

If you watch and listen to it you can hear allegations being made but seemingly little coming back from the Council by way of answers. Yes, this is a parish pump type matter for that particular community and not necessarily a big issue outside of that community but it does go to the heart of openness in local government.

No doubt the councillors here were frustrated and wanted to move on to other business but why were the allegations not fully answered? It seems the Chair of the meeting was of the view that the allegations/questions were incorrect but, at least on this video, no explanation was offered as to why they were thought by the Council to be incorrect.

My view is that when a member of the public turns out for a Council meeting and asks questions they should get answers there and then even if greater clarification and information needs to passed over later. Surely we want a questioner to leave any council meeting thinking that they have been listened to and that the Council had tried to give answers without prevarication.

I say all this as one of the fundamental differences between the present Labour-run Maghull Town Council and the former Lib Dem run Council is this very issue. You see when we ran the Council we did try to engage with people who came to make representations and ask questions. We did try to answer questions and give out information. Under Labour the questioners are told they will not get an answer at the meeting but will be written to after it. When I recently asked the Town Clerk for copies of letters sent out to people raising matters during public participation sessions I was in effect told there were no such letters.

Recently a Maghull resident came to a meeting asking whether the lead political group (Labour) whipped its members to vote a particular way. He was told the answer would be provided later. I thought it only proper to write to the resident myself to confirm that the Lib Dem opposition group on the Council did not whip its members and they were free to say what they wanted as free thinking liberals. I wonder if he ever got a response from the Labour Group or the Council?

Openness and transparency is important as is the willingness to answer questions in public without prior notice of the questions.

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