Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Stopping public scrutiny as Tory Northumberland becomes 'the secret society’

In recent weeks we have seen one of the County’s most open Councils close down behind the worn out walls of County Hall in Morpeth. We've seen the 'public interest' redefined as the Tory party interest.

The Tory administration along with their allies from the Bedlington Independents and Northumberland Lib Dems have decided against full public scrutiny of their actions through the reduction of meeting numbers by half and the formation of ‘itty bitty’ little Councils without power to back up decisions with cash right across the County, effectively closing off civil society from full public scrutiny, something we would expect to see in North Korea. Labour have called for a transparent review of the decision to scrap the county Core Strategy but the 'secret society' won't even answer.

The closing down of civil society doesn’t just end there, the Tories control scrutiny committees and have a single party Cabinet where opposition members can’t speak or ask questions unless they give seven days notice to the chair of the Cabinet; Since the papers for the meetings only come out seven days before the meeting that route is now well and truly closed off. The Tories and their allies are now planning to reduce the number of questions opposition members can ask at the few full Council meetings they will hold each year. They're even complaining when the likes of true independent Anne Dale asked too many questions.

On Thursday this week they have called a meeting to discuss their further planned crackdown on openness as they fear the questions fired at them by the Labour Party and the only non aligned truly independent Councillor, Anne Dale of Stocksfield.

This week the Labour Party will defend openness at the meeting and demand that the number of questions remains open. Labour will campaign against the 'secret society'.

A Labour Group spokesperson said: “ We expect Peter Jackson and his rag tag mob to speed up their move towards making Northumberland County Council the executive branch of the Tory 'secret society'. The Labour Party in Northumberland who ran probably the most open Council possible, with more committee meetings open to the public than any other Council in the North East, will be forced to bring the questions we must have answered on behalf of the public into the public arena. Labour are pledging to fight the Tory move to secrecy and will publish information that is in 'the public interest'.

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