‘Scrutiny’ committee farce – Local democracy dealt another blow

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries tonight witnessed yet another failure of democracy in Gloucestershire. Following a ‘call in’ by opposition councillors of the library proposals a ‘scrutiny’ meeting was called.

The Chair was a Conservative and the majority of people on the scrutiny committee were Conservatives.  You do not need a crystal ball to see what ensued. Every motion made in the 31pg scrutiny report, which many members only had ten minutes to study at the beginning of the meeting, fell as the Conservative majority voted against them.

The Conservatives defence of their proposals was weak. Queries of the legality of the library proposals were dismissed with the line “verbal advice was obtained from the legal team”. There was no written evidence. When asked why they had not considered the social impacts of their proposals Council Leader Mark Hawthorne stated that they had carried out an impact assessment that was a “model of best practice” but could not answer how the findings had been considered in the library proposals. Councillor Noble who has responsibility for the library service stated that the proposals could not be scrutinized as they are still “proposals”, the fact that they had been voted through in the cabinet meeting on the 2nd on February and that the council meeting to finalise the budget will take place in just two days time, did not appear to register. They are basically voting in empty proposals.

So, our 15,000+ signature strong petition was ignored, the council debate about our request for an independent review of the library proposals was, as was branded by Mark Hawthorne, a “train wreck” and the ‘scrutiny’ committee was not a scrutiny but a whipped farce.

The public audience was dismayed and bemused and the council members involved were slow hand-clapped out of the room.

So what next? We have used every ‘democratic’ tool we have, the only remaining one is the ballot box, but by then it will be too late to save our public library service.

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14 Responses to ‘Scrutiny’ committee farce – Local democracy dealt another blow

  1. I am not really surprised at the arrogant way in which GCC have behaved. We elect these people into power and they seem to assume that that gives them the right to completely ignore their electorate until the next election when it dawns on them that they will have to pay lip service to our opinions.
    What to do next?
    This policy in decimating our libraries infuriates me as it is so short sighted but what can anyone do to get through to these councillors when they do NOT WANT TO KNOW ?

  2. Eugenie Summerfield says:

    What a nightmare ! I am puzzled by council-speke or should I say the use of weasel words.
    What exactly is to be understood by the’ impact assessment’ which has been carried out? And on what ‘model of best practice’ have plans, which apparently no-one is allowed to scrutinise, been formulated.
    We must use the media as much as we can so that people are made aware of what is been done by their ‘elected’ representatives! Unfortunately this is what has come about because the turn out for voting in previous local elections has been so low. people should b

    • I can see why people do not get involved in politics both locally and nationally when people are treated like we have been. It is truly a false democracy and none of those in charge are accountable……and to think that we preach our ‘democracy’ to the rest of the world!

  3. PeterPannier says:

    What next? Maybe they should be prevented from having their budget setting meeting? or regularly prevented from having their council meetings? Maybe libraries could be occupied, or all the books taken out from the libraries they’ve chosen to keep, Library staff going on strike could also help make them think again. Time to step it up…?

    • Library staff going on strike wont make a blind bit of difference if half of them are being made redundant. The remaining ones will want to keep their jobs. Wonder how many volunteers they have lined up already., The that 12 Hawthorne brags about will not cover the counties libraries.

  4. Gil says:

    Serves you right for electing Conservative councillors in the first place, I’m afraid. You reap what you sow.

    • demelzajade says:

      Dear Gil,

      Thank you for your comment. However we did not all vote Conservative (in many wards the majorities are quite slim) and even those who did, have every right to call their elected representatives to account.

    • It is a simplistic argument anyway Gil, no matter who is elected there is a constitution to ensure that the rules of democracy are adhered to. Gloucestershire County Council are failing to abide by their own rules. Whoever is elected should also be representing the people in their communities – 5 Conservative councillors have been handed petitions by their residents and not one of them spoke up.

  5. Martin Bryan says:

    Another example of the inscrutable work of Con-merchants Farces-R-Us (the F is silent!)

  6. Ah, I think I see your mistake. You’re living in a county that doesn’t have Council elections for a while (is that right?) so the councillors assume you’ll have a short memory and will have forgotten about all this next time you have to vote. It’s the same in Oxfordshire which doesn’t have elections until 2013. Where I live we have a unitary authority with elections this year and, although there have been budget reductions, so far no branches have been cut.

  7. Lisa Robinson says:

    Devastating news of this reality – but, sadly, NOT surprising – though I had some hope for a moment when you called the challenge.

    Amazing when we think what all those restrained people have just achieved in Egypt by not giving in…..but….! The only thing I can think of that hopefully people will do who were able to be at that meeting, is to WRITE ALL ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED in the Press – so that many people can read about the truth that’s going on around us (and, apparently, on our behalf!!). It is quite dreadful to think that none of the public actually have had a voice in this at all, in reality. So this is NOT democracy in the making. Its something quite else. But for now, I want to THANK YOU all again for all your valient efforts. Please don’t stop broadcasting this disgrace; we need more people to stand up and shout.

  8. sandra norman says:

    I am very angry that our Councillors are not accountable to its people. Local Councillors received messages from its electorate and looks like these were totally ignored. I await to see which Councillors come to my door for the local/general elections.
    I wonder whether we will see any of them doing volunteer work within the few libraries that will be open.
    Doubt it, doesn’t look like they do the work that we pay them to do…….. Thought they were Representatives of their local areas- How wrong could I have been to have thought that.!!!!!!

  9. Trevor Craig says:

    Local “democracy” is a farce sadly. The local government act requires independent scrutiny but when the committees are always dominated by the parties in power this is never the case. They decide behind closed doors on decisions at group level and then the rest of the process is just lip service to democracy. The low opinion of politics means low turnouts and the parties can rely on their core vote to get in and safely ignore everyone else. Come 2013 I’m sure they will pretend to listen more but nothing will change I feel. In Oxfordshire we had a very similar scrutiny process where they just nodded it through and in the end it wasn’t even the group who got to decide it was the leader making all the decisions and making the public announcements before most tories were even aware of what had been decided. He was acting on the instructions of Cameron who had no business getting involved to the extend in which he did. The Glos campaigners can hold there heads high, you have done a fantastic job. Sadly you were up against a undemocratic, unaccountable kleptocracy. The fight must go on though, let me know if you require help with protests, sit ins etc if it comes to it.

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