Monday, 14 April 2014

Transparency at the Council?

The motion I put forward on Tuesday to the Full Council that there should be more transparency and less closed door meetings was unanimously supported.  It was an opportunity for members to discuss some of the issues and to reaffirm the council's aim to be accessible and open.  I was grateful that the chairman gave us the time to do that.

A particular issue that has bothered members for some time has been the number of Portfolio Advisory Committee meetings which are held in private session.  Cllr Derek Holley  (Independent , Saltash East) must take a large part of the credit for raising this issue and taking a principled stand.

It was ironic that having made all the right noises the council (minus the Conservative group and a mix of other councillors) then voted to go into closed session.  Anyone following on the web site would have been confused because the item itself was obviously so secret that even the number was deleted from the agenda.   But just to confirm there really was an item 15 otherwise why exclude the press and public?

Item 15 was about a collective agreement with the Trades Unions concerning the Living Wage and Contribution Related Performance payments ( CRP; a kind of bonus scheme already in use in Cormac) but why couldn't we at least have told the public that was what we were doing?   Is the CRP scheme a good thing or not?  Why couldn't we discuss in public the issue of the overall wages bill for the council over the next few years?  

Is it a principled stand for the Council to bring in the 'Living Wage' . Or is it easy to be principled when it is the people of Cornwall who will pay in council tax and reduced services. Can and should the Council pay those who supply services to the Council to enable them to pay the Living Wage too? 

What would have been so wrong with discussing the principles so that the public could see the way their elected representatives think and are likely to act - how else can we be held accountable?

After all the brave words and solemn commitments the majority of members of Cornwall Council failed within the same meeting to live up to the promises they had just made.

The chairman did at least have the good grace to say it was "embarrassing".

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