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Justice for Bridlington’s response to Matthew Buckley

June 26, 2013

Justice for Bridlington is today responding to an e-mail sent to all East Riding of Yorkshire (ERYC) councillors by Matthew Buckley, Head of Legal & Democratic Services, and is also responding to comments made by Mr Buckley to the media.

In a quote given to the Yorkshire Post on Monday 24 June, Mr Buckley said the following in response to the declaration we have asked all councillors to sign:

“We have asked members not to reply to the email from ‘Justice 4 Bridlington’ at this moment, either positively or negatively, as it deals with a matter that may still require decisions from councillors in the future.

“The statement commits those signing it to a course of action and councillors signing up to such a statement may run the risk that they are unable to take part in discussions on these matters in the future as by signing the declaration they have predetermined their position.

“Whilst it is considered whether members would run such a risk, they have been asked not to respond to the email at this time.”

Mr Buckley clearly does not understand the changes made in the Localism Act 2011. The following extract is taken from  page 5 of the Plain English Version of the Act:

In parallel with the abolition of the Standards Board, the Government has used the Localism Act to clarify the rules on predetermination’. These rules were developed to ensure that councillors came to council discussions – on, for example, planning applications – with an open mind. In practice, however, these rules had been interpreted in such a way as to reduce the quality of  local debate and stifle valid discussion. In some cases councillors were warned off doing such things as campaigning, talking with constituents, or publicly expressing views on local issues, for fear of being accused of bias or facing legal challenge.

The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result. This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate. People can elect their councillor confident in the knowledge that they will be able to act on the issues they care about and have campaigned on.

The declaration we have asked councillors to sign asks them to play an active part in local discussions. It asks them to represent their constituents better and asks them to act on the issues they care about.

If this is Mr Buckley’s official legal advice, it is flawed. Councillors have nothing to fear by signing our declaration and should not be intimidated by council officers if they do. 

The fact that Mr Buckley is trying to prevent councillors from doing the job they are elected to do, eats at the very heart of democracy. The fact that ERYC is still blocking Justice for Bridlington’s  e-mail address and is therefore trying to prevent us from talking to councillors who use their official council e-mail account, highlights the democratic deficit in County Hall. The fact that council officers read e-mails sent to councillors before councillors do themselves, proves that elected members are not in control and are prevented from properly scrutinising officers’ decisions.

We elect councillors to serve our best interests, and expect public servants employed by the council to act on their instructions. Matthew Buckley needs to realise that he is a servant of the people.

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