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Conservatives gag the public at County Hall

October 11, 2011 6:38 PM
County Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes

Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes

Conservatives at Essex County Council have, today, rejected a proposal by the Liberal Democrats to open up the Council and let the public speak directly to councillors at council meetings and to ask questions about the work of the Council. This decision was made at a debate on public participation at a meeting of the Full Council today. Responding to the Conservative comments, Councillor Tom Smith-Hughes, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition, said:

"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."