As a newly elected Shropshire Councillor, I’m wondering when I will be able to attend my first council meeting as Councillor for Ludlow North.
Council Speaker, Councillor David Lloyd, has cancelled the council meeting planned for 10 April 2014. He says there is no need to call councillors to Shirehall, as the only item on the agenda could wait until the May meeting.
If the funding crisis over our Buttercross museum is not resolved tomorrow, I planned to ask a question at the council meeting. I won’t be able to do that now.
Council meetings are opportunities for councillors to put forward motions for debate. The public can ask questions. Council meetings should be where councillors make decisions in public in a democratic fashion. The reason that there is nothing much on the agenda for the April council meeting is that all decisions are made behind the scenes, often by a lone councillor in a meeting from which the public and press are excluded.
In the year from May, Shropshire Council is planning just five full council meetings – down from seven this year. It will hold just six cabinet meetings public – down from 12 this year.
Democracy must be public. Decisions must be debated. The public’s understanding of the savage cuts being implemented by Shropshire Council is very low. That’s not going to improve while the councillors making decisions fail to appear before the public.
The cancellation of the April council meeting and the reduction of meetings next year may save some money. But it is also snuffing out democratic debate and decision making.
Shropshire Council is rapidly slipping into a black hole of democracy.