Lead councillor set to shun future meetings

A COUNCILLOR has said she will not attend future Derbyshire County Council meetings.

Cllr Anne Western, who is the Labour leader on the authority believes they are seriously flawed.

She explained: “When the Conservative Party took control of Derbyshire County Council in May 2009, they changed the previous arrangement whereby the leader of the largest opposition group had a full place on Cabinet, to one in which the two opposition group leaders were invited to ask questions about cabinet reports at the beginning of the meeting. No further involvement in the meeting is allowed.

“Although we in the Labour Group had serious misgivings about this change, regarding it as a curtailment of democratic discussion and debate, we have had no choice but to accept it and I have attended almost all the cabinet meetings and asked questions where relevant.

“However, from the beginning this arrangement has been flawed. Some cabinet members have consistently failed to answer the questions posed or even to acknowledge that a question has been asked, seemly unable to deviate from their prepared script.

“On those occasions when a written response is offered, this sometimes takes several weeks to arrive, if at all, by which time the information is of no use.

“Worryingly, this restriction of the democratic process in cabinet has been replicated in scrutiny meetings, where the right to question and challenge has also been severely curtailed at times. This leaves the council meeting as the only place for debate.”