As spring casts aside its winter duvet and prepares for a new year of growth and progress, our leaders at Boston borough council are adopting a rather different approach – they simply turn over for a lie in of a month or so.
nd April 2013 has been cancelled “due to insufficient business.”
Last week an e-mail to all elected members told them that “with the agreement of the mayor” the next meeting of the full council scheduled for 22
This has happened before, of course – and we once remarked that if we held shares in a company with an annual budget of around £10 million and a staff of 275, we’d expect the people who ran the business to be pretty busy … rather than merely turning up when the mood took them.
This time, though, we think that the cancellation has less to do with “lack of business” and more to do with what our local leaders laughingly call “politics.”
Full council meetings in Boston are largely a rubber stamping exercise, with decisions taken in advance, cut and dried, and steamrollered through regardless of any opposition attempts to mount a challenge or table a discussion.
The one ray of light in these otherwise turgid affairs usually comes in the form the agenda item headed “To answer questions (if any) from elected members pursuant to Rule 11 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure.”
Whilst the preferred option of our so-called leaders is to take no questions whatever, things don’t always go their way – and when questions are asked the great and the good of our Conservative elite are often left with egg on their faces.
The last full council meeting, http://newbostoneye.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=adey for example, more closely resembled a Brian Rix Whitehall farce – with council leader Pete Bedford being caught with his trousers down more than once after he was handed the wrong answer to a written question.
And who can forget the well-earned embarrassment suffered by the former mayor, Councillor Mary Wight, when a question exposed her antediluvian attitude to equality when she declared: “women have far more important things to do, like cook dinner and look after their husbands and families than attend meetings in the evenings.”
So, no full council meeting means that there will be no questions.
Despite out suspicious nature, we might have accepted this at face value – but we have a nasty feeling that there is an element of organisation that reaches beyond Boston.
Alarm bells sounded when we spotted a notable omission in last Friday’s final agenda of Lincolnshire County Council before next month’s elections.
Just like Boston Borough Council, County Hall normally allows members to raise questions with executive members of the council – their equivalent of portfolio holders … but not this time around.
Doubtless, the official line would probably have something to do with “Purdah” – the period before an election when normal protocols and behaviours around a council activities in general and around publicity and communications in particular become more restricted.
But we suspect that the ban on questions has more to do with the possibility that what little opposition there is within the county council would seize the opportunity to pose awkward questions to the Tory leadership less than three week before polling day.
If they did, we couldn’t blame them – but we will never know, as the opportunity for questions and answers has been banned.
So too with Boston – no last chance to call our portfolio holders to account.
In the past 12 months there have been six full council meetings in Boston – and one of those was a “special” one.
Not only has there been little by way of business, but now it seems that even half a dozen meetings are considered too many.
We find it a struggle to believe that everything is going so well that decision making can be left in the hands of just seven cabinet members – without no need to consult or hear from the other 25 members – well, 24 at the moment.
But isn’t it convenient that the chance for questions has been removed?
And not just for one meeting either – the following council on May 23rd will the annual meeting and Mayor making, so it’s doubtful questions will be allowed there either.
It’s called democracy – Boston style.
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