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Tory led Essex County Council vote not to allow the general public to speak at council meetings

Today a debate and vote was held at Essex County Council HQ as to whether Council meetings should be opened up more with members of the general public being allowed to engage with the councillors directly in open council proceedings. The Tories were against such a plan as they were very much of the belief that they know best and that the general public are a bit smelly and annoying. I may have made up the reasoning although if it was me they were thinking of then I am both smelly and annoying so it would have been fair.

Anyway sidestepping away from talking about my own issues this highlights a problem that we have. I know we elect councillors to do a job but sometimes being able to ask questions to them directly and in front of other councillors would be a great thing. It would stop councillors being able to ignore people they didn’t want to speak to. I know it would have to be managed so it didn’t turn into a free-for-all but it was something that would make council meeting more inviting to people and stop the thoughts that councillors just do what is best for them and have the attitude of sod the electorate.

The leader of the opposition on the council and leader of the Liberal Democrats on Essex County Council agrees:

“The comments made today by nearly all of the many Conservatives who spoke in the debate demonstrate a level of arrogance and complacency that is almost impossible to comprehend. There are many District and Borough Councils across Essex and all the other County Councils in the East of England that have had such a permanent and designated spot for members of the public for several years. We are only asking for something that the public is getting already from most other councils anyway, yet the Conservatives at County Hall chose instead to continue to gag the public of Essex.

“The Council really must improve its public engagement to demonstrate it wants Essex residents and council taxpayers to be included in the democratic process in a real and meaningful way. There is no direct public involvement at the decision-making level of the County Council and the public is only involved when specifically invited in. This was the acid test for the Conservatives to show, in practical terms, that they are interested in hearing and responding to what the public has to say; sadly they failed.

“The Conservative talk of localism and devolvement of power to the people is clearly just talk. The Conservatives are simply not to be trusted on this issue.”

So there we have it. Yet another opportunity spurned by the Tories locally to actually listen to what the general public have to say. Maybe they don’t want to hear what they have to say because they know they wouldn’t like it. That would be bad but I have a feeling it is far more to do with the fact that they couldn’t give a damn and that is far worse.

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