I wrote last week on this blog about the leadership of Barnsley council attempting to stifle scrutiny and accountability in the chamber of the council by altering standing orders. I explained that last year a councillor was elected in Penistone West (Cllr Hannah Kitching) which made the ruling group and opposition uncomfortable. For the first time their actions were being questioned and challenged and council meetings had stopped being pally rubber stamping sessions.
Challenge is an essential part of a healthy democracy and should come from the opposition in a council chamber and also from within the ruling group. Until last year that challenge had not been there – not from within the Labour group whose councillors give the impression of nodding dogs nor from the official opposition who had failed to table a single question to the council leadership in the open forum of full council meetings in over four years.
On May 2nd eight new councillors were elected taking over seats from the ruling Labour group and the opposition Conservative group. Council leader Stephen Houghton cited anger over Brexit as the reason. Yes there was that but there is also a growing anger at an arrogant council and their growing deafness to the worries of the residents of the borough. The Conservatives are now the smallest group on the council and the opposition is now lead by independents and four Liberal Democrat councillors. Hence, to avoid an increase in scrutiny that a larger group of unknown and less compliant councillors would offer, the leadership are aiming to alter the ways our representatives can hold them to account.
This is something that they clearly were hoping to do under the radar with little public knowledge of their actions. I am trying my best to raise awareness of what they are trying to do but I need help! We need to question our representatives and question those in power in the council chamber in Barnsley. Only through public pressure will they listen.
I’ve had a letter published in this week’s Barnsley Chronicle (see below) highlighting what is going on.
I’ve emailed both council leader Sir Stephen Houghton (cllrStephenHoughton@barnsley.gov.uk) and deputy leader Jim Andrews (cllrJimAndrews@barnsley.gov.uk) raising my concerns (No response as yet). You can do that too and/or email your own councillors to raise your concerns about how scrutiny is being stifled. Click this link to and click on your councillors to get their contact details.
This proposal will be debated at the full council meeting on Thursday 23rd May and unless we demonstrate that the public are wise to their actions, these changes will go through. We have to lift the lid and shine a light on the dealings and machinations of the leadership of Barnsley council. It is OUR council and we can change things if we have the determination.