While the impact of Covid-19 has mostly been negative, there have been some positives… huge improvements to transparent governance for one, allowing residents and Councillors to minimise the chances of their questions going unanswered as before! Well, that is the logical outcome but will require the ruling party to change the way they are used to playing the game, thing is, can you teach old dogs new tricks?
You can now watch the RBWM Council in action on YouTube which has massively improved the clarity of communications. Previously the best we could do was an audio recording of the meetings which was a bit hit and miss and didn’t allow you to see the whites of our eyes.
YouTube means that you see who is saying what very clearly and that in turn will mean that you have the opportunity to pick out the positives and deficiencies in the conversations and follow up with emails to the relevant Councillors to ask questions… previously, most people would start reading the transcripts or listening to the voice recordings and drift off… video is way more engaging and keeps your attention for far longer.
Questions like why did Councillor Sharpe completely ignore Councillor Baldwin’s question about why, if the cabinet had not agreed the closure, did they not jump up and down when the Maidenhead Advertiser ran the story about closing one of the centres? Councillor Sharpe’s response, as Chair, was to ignore his question and go to the next question… and then ignore a question from a co-opted Governor that he’d obviously not bothered to speak to since becoming Chair?
Just watch this play out below… I have set the video to go to the time point, 2 hours 3 mins, I am referencing where you can watch the snippet and then more of the meeting should you choose to do so… works fine on PC and iPad, my phone is struggling for some reason?
Chairs are paid an additional fee, just over £6,000 a year to make sure they put time and energy into being up to speed with their committee! There is an argument that says that the opposition should be chairing the Overview & Scrutiny Committees because how does the administration challenge itself… the above is a great example, supporting that call for change at RBWM.
Now for me, the question was fair and should have had a response BUT experience has taught me that this goes on… frequently! I have wondered why this brush off technique has been used in the past but since it’s over in the blink of an eye and probably happening to another Councillor, you’re likely to just ignore it and move on to the next point. The Councillor being “blanked” may feel a twang inside but again, is used to this happening and moves on to their next point.
No longer do we have to think, did that just happen?!?
Being able to select the key point on Youtube, review it multiple times, share it with colleagues and residents who can then ask questions should, hopefully ultimately lead to behavioural change as the ruling party finds it is more open to scrutiny than ever before and has to pull its act together. Or they may believe they are above all this nonsense and simply carry on as normal, leading to more Independents being voted in next time around 😉
Committee / Panel Chairs will have to make sure they have read the rules of chairing and comply rather than allowing their egos to take over, brushing aside opposition questions as “meaningless drivel” or “buffoonery” …
I for one am looking forward to being part of this new, much more transparent, way of governance.
Will you be watching more of the Council meetings and taking an active interest in how your Councillor performs? I do hope so…