As a first time district councillor, I am bound to be naïve. I have attended all the committees to which I belong (Scrutiny and Performance), full Council meetings and all pertinent training sessions and briefings so that I might begin to learn about the arcane processes and procedures that constitute the inner workings of the Council.
Well, you may be as surprised as I was when I learnt last week at the Council meeting that there is one set of protocols for those councillors of the ruling party, and one for all the rest. When you are in power, it seems that you don’t need to clearly articulate motions – you at least know what you are voting for – and you can so easily confuse the opposition. Whilst my R4U colleagues and I thought we were voting against the flawed Local Plan Consultation Questionnaire, it seems that we were voting against consultation with local residents. I don’t think so! We live and breathe consultation: we are residents and we promised that we would give residents a voice. And that is precisely what we are doing!
But when you are in power, it seems that you can also speak after a vote has been taken to accuse the opposition of having voted against consultation, yet you can refuse those same people the opportunity to respond by moving swiftly on to the next item. This seems like an abuse of power to me, but as I am so naïve, who am I to say?
Quite frankly, the proposed consultation document was not fit for purpose – firstly it seemed to be aimed at developers and not at residents; it included references to the previous failed plan; much of the text was misleading or leading; elements were missing; and the language was a perfect example of complicated verbiage and jargon. Last week, your R4U councillors reviewed it and sent it back to the drawing board.
When we raised these and other points at Council we were told that if people didn’t understand it then they would be able to ask their “silly questions” in a variety of ways. Now whilst that statement demeans residents, which is unacceptable, I actually love silly questions because they are pointed and meaningful and so often expose the true nature of things – remember the story of the little boy and the Emperor’s new clothes? I can guarantee all 18,529 residents who voted for us and all those who didn’t that I will stand up and keep asking those silly questions on our behalf.
And in case you are wondering – I snatched an opportunity at the end of Council to put the record straight on what we thought we were voting against i.e., the flawed Local Plan Consultation Questionnaire.
If you’d like to hear the audio recording of that meeting, please go to http://www.audiominutes.com/p/udc/