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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Openness and accountability

I'm told that at the last series of Council meetings, a last minute extra item appeared for urgent and pressing discussion.

The item recommended reducing the number of Council Meeting from 6 per annum to 5 for 2102 2012 onwards.  The reason being given was that senior staff were too busy preparing for the next series of meetings to actually do any work.

Stop laughing at the back.

In the spirit of openness and accountability, I though that the public might be interested to see such a document; but I can't find it anywhere on the Council website.  Hmmmm.  Nothing suspicious there then.  Nothing to see, move along.....

Except my informant was in the chamber at that meeting.

Can anyone pass me a copy of the document, please, as it raises all sorts of issues.  How many more decisions will now be taken without democratic scrutiny, and be subject to homologation at later meetings?  How slow will the system move, when urgent financial decisions are around the corner?  And, most importantly, just how much power does this put into a very few hands?

Update: I'm told that the report was in the main agenda, as part of the planned calendar for 2012.  As I am sure you can see, the change was well flagged up, and obviously drawn to the public's attention.


Donald MacAskill said...

The Comhairle should webcast their meetings online. Technically it's (very) cheap to do nowadays, as well as technically quite easy.

Which is why many - not just a few - UK councils are now webcasting, and in some cases archiving, their meetings. Some examples:

Bristol City

If Cornwall - rural, coastal, geographically dispersed, on the edge of Britain, relatively fiscally poor - can do it, there is no logical reason why the Western Isles cannot.

Do that, and it's transparency. RESIDENTS - taxpayers - of the islands who are online can see who is there, and who is saying what, about how THEIR MONEY IS SPENT, there and then. It will also be a "rumour killer", as people can't make up or exaggerate what they've (allegedly) heard was said in a Comhairle council meeting.

Also, webcasting has the side benefit of showing the world outside the islands that, yes, the place is modern, we have electricity and technology, it isn't backwards, and so on. So that'll destroy a whole bunch of misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

The fact our councillors get paid now should mean they engage more rather than less. Many councillors never turn up to community events etc and make no noise. Get your finger out!

Hearsay said...

I'm concerned about the Comhairle C'ttee structure now in place since re-organisation and NO Social Work C'ttee of the Comhairle (the 2nd largest departmental spender). All SW decisions seem now to go through Joint Services C'ttee (CHaSCP)- with usually no more than three councillors attending (and 19 officers present at the last mtg). The CHaSCP web site has been down for three months now so information not being communicated. This is hardly in keeping with open and transparent local govt.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone actually believe the power is anywhere other than with the very few?

Anonymous said...

Uhhh am I just being uncommonly thick but aren't the officials supposed to be doing the work generated for them at one meeting as their preparation for the next meeting? Surely preparation for meetings should be easily and quickly assembled from documents and reports generated by the work being carried out by their minions?
Maybe if officials spent more time outside meetings actually doing their work they wouldn't need to spend so much time generating reports explaining why they didn't get stuff done.
Ps I can see absolutely no way the phrase "open and transparent local govt" can be applied to CnES other than as a sarcastic aside.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what you're getting all so hot and bothered about. Your piece, Angus, states that this is due to be implemented in 2102, in 91 years' time. Or should that have read 2012?

Anonymous said...

I will not stand idly by and have you besmirch the good name of the Head of Exec Office by suggesting that she "sneaked" the reduction in number of meetings through in a report on Public Holidays. I require no convincing that she meant to give the prominence to the reduction in meetings and it was a mere slip which put the hols at the forefront.
After all she is a lawyer and we all know they would not resort to any slight of hand. Would they?

Anonymous said...

Do the residents of the Western Isles know that due to the incompetence of the officers & Directors within the Council, that as it stands today should we experience any frost or snow within the next couple of Months that there are no contractors in place to carry out ice gritting.

The Scottish Government have issued warnings to all Scottish Local authorities to be prepared for cold and frosty weather.

One idea being mooted by the council is to supply motorists with personal shovels and bags of grit. Should you skid on ice you simply self spread the grit and be on your way.

The council themslves are not geared to carry out any gritting other than car parks.

Reports suggest that the earliest date that contractors could be in place could be as late as the end of November and certainly no earlier than mid November.