Secrecy and behind closed doors decision making goes on all the time at Hartlepool Council and ordinary back bench councillors are deliberately kept in the dark! That is the only conclusion I can draw from the way “Pink Papers” are still being used in Hartlepool Council.
I have had an on-going battle with Hartlepool Council in my efforts to get access to information. As an elected member of Hartlepool Council I try to represent my constituents to the best of my ability but am frustrated in this aim when I am denied access to information about what is happening. The whole debate around the granting of the Freedom of Hartlepool to certain individuals is obscuring an even more important issue, namely the use of Pink Papers in Hartlepool Council to block openness and transparency and keep not only the people of Hartlepool in the dark but also to stop Councillors such as myself finding out what goes on.
Pink papers were used to stop me finding out about the on-going re-organisation of Hartlepool Council and I have repeatedly been denied access to other information I have requested. I am now at the point where I am making requests under the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to get access to Hartlepool Council papers. It should be unbelievable to Hartlepool Residents that an ELECTED COUINCILLOR is being forced to take these steps to get information and shows how secrecy is a way of life at Hartlepool Council! If an elected councillor can’t get information then what chance does a member of the public have?
The Council meeting in December did acknowledge that Pink Papers needed to be more widely available and so approved copies of the papers to the Chair of Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee and the Chairs of the four Scrutiny Forums. A move by myself, and supported by some other independent thinking Councillors, to have papers also sent to the leaders of the Groups on the Council (Labour, Conservative, Lib-Dem and Admin) was blocked. The pink papers are now available to the five Chairs, who all happen to be Labour Councillors, but not to anyone else. Pink papers are therefore fully available to the Cabinet and just under half the other Councillors, the Labour half, the rest of us are still cut out of the loop.
Democracy in action? Not in Hartlepool ? Not under this Mayor and the Labour Group.