The answer is yes, according to Councillor Steve Charmley, the deputy leader of the council. We know his opinion because he tweeted it during the full council meeting on 22 September.
Councillor Charmley made the front page of the Shropshire Star with his tweet. The newspaper also quoted him saying that councillors are using meetings to “score cheap political points”. He is wrong.
I think everyone feels frustrated with council meetings at times but the problem lies with the Conservative leadership, including Charmley, not those of us who want rich debate and sensible decisions. It is high time that council meetings were broadcast on the Internet.
I responded to Steve Charley’s attack on the council in a letter to the Star.
Letter to Shropshire Star published 29 September 2016
During the last meeting of Shropshire Council, Councillor Steve Charmley tweeted that the meeting was lengthy and “there must be a better way to spend the day”. You quote him as saying that councillors are using meetings to “score cheap political points”.
The council meeting lasted four and a half hours. It would have been shorter if there had not been a considerable degree of procedural confusion at the beginning of the meeting. After seven years, surely the council should know what the rules for meetings are?
The main problem with Shropshire Council meetings is that the Conservative leadership abhors debate. Every time those of us in the opposition seats raise a point or present a proposal, we are condemned for “being political”.
Rational argument is not political. It is part of the robust debate we need to ensure that the council delivers the best service it to our residents.
At the meeting, the dominant Conservative group rejected almost out of hand proposals to divert money to youth services, to use capital receipts to support town and parish councils and to lobby the government on inequity in women’s pensions. These were all good proposals that would have benefited our county. But the council leader decried them as “political”. Conservative members voted them down on block.
Only a few of the 35 or so Conservative members in the council chamber took part in these debates. I think people would be surprised at how stilted and stage managed council meetings are.
It is time the council broadcast its meetings on the Internet as other councils have for years. Then council tax payers can judge whether they are getting the healthy democratic debates this county needs in difficult times.