Recording Council Forums

A responsibility to engage not hide

By John Le Harivel

Elected councillors need to take the community seriously
Elected councillors need to take the community seriously

I take issue with Mayor Gurunathan’s determination not to record Council Public Forums. Is there a hidden agenda? Is it to avoid public scrutiny? Is it to avoid accountability?

Councillors should be open to scrutiny and accountability. There are enough public excluded meetings as it is. What are they hiding?

Councillors have a responsibility to engage. Where else can people engage with all the councillors together in one place? Councillors have a responsibility to enter into dialogue with the community.

They should not hide behind bureaucratic rules and use legal processes on an ‘attack and defend at all costs’.  Or adopt a we know best attitude.

Use what the community has to offer

img_2817 Council does not have the intellectual edge on the community. Council should make use of that community intellectual capacity in a positive not a negative way.  This would reduce antagonism.

There is little opportunity for genuine engagement or dialogue in 3 minute bite sizes, especially on complex issues, within what is essentially a formal setting.

The previous public forums during the last triennium were less formal in setting.   They were more of a conversation.  Again they were not recorded with little if any feedback. As a result, people gave up on them as pointless.  Few councillors ever attended, notably not councilor Gurunathan.

Councillors need to engage and have a record

The Mayor needs to  take the lead on initiating recording the forums
The Mayor needs to take the lead on initiating recording the forums

Engagement is about listening for contribution.  Genuine engagement is about taking on the engaged contribution.

The majority of councillors so far do not engage during the public forums.

Few appear to have any profound thoughts on anything instead appearing like stuffed mullets.  I would like to be proved otherwise.

Just because a meeting is informal is no justification for not having the issues raised, recorded.  It is not that difficult.  The Mayor just has to extend his hand under his desk to switch on the recording machine.  Maybe he should practice using that muscle.

Having a record that all can refer to

If there is no process for recording issues raised and responses given then no one knows whether an issue has been heard, taken up, acted upon or discarded. It just disappears into the great blue ether.

Nor are others in the community aware of what has been raised or whether it is related to them or indeed whether they have already raised the same issue.

This is a very inefficient and frustrating process for all concerned.

Expectations of councillors

I expect, rather optimistically, that councillors:

  • have the wherewithal to question the spin
  • ask searching questions of staff and any reports or papers provided to them
  • understand and have knowledge of the issues
  • have some intellectual capacity not just to agree to whatever they are told
  • actually read the numerous papers they receive; to understand them.

I expect councillors to have an understanding of the issues facing the District; to know how things get done within the framework of the bureaucratic processes of local government.

Throwing light on the subject

Information is power. Restricting information is what happens in a dictatorship. It is         a slippery slope.

Shining a light on a topic is a guarantee of democracy. Having dialogue and engaging enhances the outcome.

I continue to believe, to use Glaswegian patois “The Mayor’s jacket is on a wobbly peg”.