Friday, 14 December 2007

Questions answered, but debate blocked

A School Carol Service or a Full Council Meeting. Hard choice to make? Well I decided that attending the Council meeting had to come before my son's school carol concert. This is not a mistake I will make again as it was proved last night that questions and debate are dead in Hartlepool Council.

In the minutes of the October meeting I had abstained from one vote because I was not allowed to speak during the debate. I asked for my abstention AND the reason for it to be minuted, unfortunately only the fact of the abstention was recorded, WHY was not noted in the minutes.

This however was only a foretaste of things to come last night. The Chairman of the Council announced that as there was a full agenda he was not going to allow debate on Councillors' questions, just the question, then the answer and then move on. This was agreed by the Council WITHOUT a vote. Myself and one or two other Councillors did object but we were ignored. There were 9 questions and some of them would have produced an interesting debate. The Mayor even said in his answer to my question on radio broadcasting of Council Meetings that he had been looking forward to hearing the opinion of other Councilors. Unfortunately the debate was not allowed.

I had prepared some quite detailed submissions as part of the anticipated debates and I know at least two other Councillors were looking forward to contributing. If time pressures are not allowing full debates in Hartlepool Council meetings then maybe it is time to return to monthly meetings rather than every six weeks?

If back bench Councillors Questions are now to be closed off without debate then it is another nail in the coffin of democracy in this country.

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