Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Open Government in the Ward

There is a long tradition of the Common Councilmen in each ward meeting secretly behind closed doors, and making decisions on behalf of the ward.

 Our ward has been no different - for a number of years (apart from the annual wardmote) the sitting Common Councilmen, to the best of my knowledge, have held no, or few public open meetings within the ward in their capacity as Common Councilmen, do not appear to have notified residents of their actions in writing, (the monthly ward newsletter technically fulfils this function), published attendance of meetings, etc at Guildhall in an easily accessible manner, and in general, do not engage in what might be called open government.

Ten years ago, when I was last a Common Councilman in this ward, this was how the Portsoken Ward Common Council met.

That might have been acceptable in 1614. It is no longer acceptable in 2014.
(Our local Common Council of Portsoken consists of the sitting Common Councilmen, and Alderman)

My view is that all council meetings of elected officials in the ward should by default be open to the public. When the local Portsoken Common Council meets to discuss ward business among themselves, the public should be allowed to attend as observers.

This is the case for committees at Guildhall. It should also be the case locally within the ward.

If elected, I will hold open public meetings, where residents can bring ward problems directly to their Common Councilmen, and if need be, pass resolutions on matters concerning the ward, which would then be passed on to the Town Clerk, for distribution to the relevant officers at Guildhall. We would then be in a position to follow up the response.

I will also hold women-only ward meetings. This is a matter of particular concern, as we have a significant number of female residents in the ward who will not attend a mixed sex meeting. Their voice is, as a result, not heard. I believe that there is also a need for public ward meetings at the Mansell Street Estate to have a Bengali translator present.






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