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Councillors Deliver On Scrutiny Pledge.

May 5, 2014

Councillors who responded to the Justice for Brid scrutiny pledge  have ensured that the next ERYC scrutiny review looks into regeneration projects.
We should now be given answers to some of the questions raised by the  Council’s planning failures in Bridlington. After all, you can not review anything without acknowledging and understanding what has worked or gone wrong in the past.

Despite the knee-jerk sell-offs and back-of-fag-packet money-no-object smokescreen being put up to cover the failure of the AAP, even the Council apologists have to acknowledge that Bridlington regeneration has gone spectacularly wrong.

However we hear that senior officials are blocking any public participation and the review, which will not be recorded, is to be held behind closed doors, with the public firmly shut out. We also hear that the scope of the enquiry ( which has not been published) has been carefully controlled so as to prevent councillors from being able look too closely or to hold those responsible to account.

Scrutiny Committee meetings are public and we may with the indulgence of the Chairman have some limited involvement. Not so with scrutiny reviews.
The difference is that unlike committee meetings, Reviews can scrutinise ‘operational matters’ (things done by council officers). East Riding Council use these reviews to get round the legal requirement to allow Councillors to scrutinise in public what the officers get up to and the decisions they make.

A small panel, appointed by the Conservative Group leadership work directly with officers to produce a report, ( written by the officers) which is then presented to the council.

The full scrutiny committee, in this case Environment & Regeneration, publicly receives the report first, but cannot change a single word of it or ask the panel to revisit any part of the investigation.

In 2007 the Flood Review opened up the review process, insisting on holding its meetings in public on an evening when people could attend and allowing public participation. The Council decided that this format should be adopted for all future reviews.

There is no good reason for any Council to hold scrutiny meetings, reviews or working groups behind closed doors. To do so is contrary to the whole ethos of public scrutiny. Such secrecy is the province of those who seek to cover up what is unacceptable.  In the case of the East Riding, this secrecy is contrary to what the council itself decided.

All scrutiny should be in the open. Meetings should be recorded and broadcast, residents should be allowed to attend and to participate by submitting questions.

We at Justice for Brid thank the councillors who got the Bridlington issues to scrutiny, even in this highly controlled and limited way. Given that senior officers and leading councillors treat J4B as a proscribed organisation for daring to seek truth and accountability, their support marks the growing dissatisfaction with the Council Leader. The message from his Conservative Group is that any perceived support for us is grounds to be thrown out of the Group and for de-selection by the Conservative Party.

Those standing up to this bullying most certainly deserve our gratitude. It is a mark of the corruption and perverse distortion of democracy under Cllr Parnaby’s regime at ERYC that we can not thank them by name without they suffer reprisals.

Sadly, secret scrutiny limited in its scope can not command public confidence. ERYC seems intent on retaining their title as the most closed and secretive council in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

We call for all scrutiny to be in public.

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