2014 marks the 40th Anniversary of the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972. Progressively, throughout those forty years, elected members and paid public servants have entrenched themselves in a position of perceived invulnerability to scrutiny, exposure or even criticism. Even at Parish level, petty martinets have ensconced themselves in positions of imagined power which they now defend– even when their only strategy is to disregard the law. So infatuated are they with their titles of ‘Councillor’ or ‘Clerk’ – which, in their minds only, set them ‘above’ their fellow citizens and ‘above’ the law – that they are blissful in their obdurate ignorance of the duties and responsibilities that Parliament has seen fit to impose upon them. It is high time Labour controlled Anston Parish Council escaped these forty years in the wilderness and came at last to the promised land of genuine democracy.
Let me use the example of Chairman John Ireland’s outburst when filming of public meetings became law: Openness of Local Government Bodies 2014. He did not know filming was allowed and Clerk to the Council Michael Gazure was no help to him at all yet members of the public were fully aware of the new law. Ireland tried to circumvent this by muttering something about Standing Orders, in his view the Parish Council’s out-of-date Standing Orders (prohibiting the public at large from using electronic devices) actually ‘prevail’ over any and every Act of Parliament. It would seem that the arrogance of some public servants is exceeded only by their crass stupidity. Those who are uncomfortable at the prospect of appearing in video clips on the internet have failed to fully appreciate that, given modern technology and the policy of the Government on transparency and accountability, it is an inevitable consequence of public life. In this sense, each of us is free to decide for ourselves whether or not a place in public life is desirable or appropriate.
Government policy on accountability:
Department for Communities and Local Government: January 3rd, 2013. Public accountability of local government is covered in several Acts: The Localism Act 2011
• the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 opened up meetings to the public, allowing members of the public and press to attend meetings of councils and certain other public bodies
• the Local Government Act 1972 requires Councillors to declare their interests, and councils to publish agendas, documents and reports
• the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980: section 96 established a public register of land and buildings owned by local councils. The aim of the register is to identify government land and buildings which are not being fully used.
• the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 provides public access to local authority meetings, reports and documents.
• the Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) Regulations 1991 requires local authorities to publish the recommendations made by their independent remuneration panel, their scheme of allowances and the actual allowances paid to any member of the authority in any given year
• the Local Government Finance Act 1992 allows members of the public to obtain information about local domestic rating lists
• the Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows people to request copies of information held by public authorities
• the Local Government Act 2000 provides people with access to information held by local authority executives, like leaders and elected mayors.
Self confessed part timer Cllr.Dalton (Vice Chair), Cllr.Beck and Cllr.St.John (All Labour Cllr’s) lead the way to obstruct, interrupt and overrule any and all attempts by Independent Cllr’s to bring transparency and clarity to APC meetings,verbally abuse members of the public and/or stifle legitimate debate by either ignoring questions or closing a meeting early.
What have they got to hide?