Shropshire Council refused a public question on climate change at Thursday’s meeting. Why? The questioner had made a minor mistake. He had asked for the answer “before” not “at” the meeting in his email, though not in the question itself. The question was ruled out of order minutes before the meeting, even though the question had been submitted two weeks before. That stinks of political interference in the democratic rights of electors in Shropshire. When Councillor Julian Dean, the only Green Party member, raised the matter as a point of order, the Speaker ruled the point of order out of order. That stinks of political interference.
Nothing shows more clearly Shropshire Council’s progressive disengagement from electors and its disinterest in climate change than this.
This article is based on information from Green Party Councillor Julian Dean.
I have sympathy with everyone who gets confused with council procedures. I am part of that club. Like most people I work on common sense referring to the rulebook (constitution) when I need to go into detailed arguments. I have all the rules on one of my two, even three screens in council meetings. But if you are a member of the public, they can be a nightmare.
The questioner asked about implementation of Shropshire Council’s 2011 Climate Change Strategy. The detailed question is below. To the best of my knowledge, none of the targets referred to in the question have been achieved.
The question was ruled out when the member of the public was already on the way to the meeting on 28 February, despite the question being submitted on 17 February. It was deemed to be outside the scope of a public question because the email, not the question itself, said “I would like to have answers in time for the next full Council meeting at the end of this month.” If the wording has been “at the council” the question could not have been refused.
The last-minute timing of this refusal stinks. It suggests this is a political decision not a legal one. In any event, there is an expectation that Shropshire Council officers will help people who don’t understand the rules.
There was one public question allowed at Thursday’s council. After that, Green Party councillor Julian Dean rose to make a point of order over the barring of the climate change question. Speaker Vince Hunt, Conservative member for Oswestry West, ruled the point of order out of order before Julian had finished speaking. I know of no constitutional basis for a refusal to hear a point of order. It was an unacceptable breach of democratic principles on the part of the Speaker.
The Conservatives have already withdrawn the right of public questioners to ask a supplementary question at council meetings. Now they seem to be trying to stop people asking questions.
Democracy is rapidly failing in Shropshire. Decisions are made behind closed doors before council meetings. They are then bulldozed through by whipped Conservative members who are not allowed to think independently. The public is silenced. Telescreens broadcast corporate propaganda across Shirehall in true 1984 style.
Local democracy is broken in Shropshire.
Question on Climate Change by a member of the public
In 2011 Shropshire Council adopted a Climate Change Strategy. There are no records easily available of the outcomes of this strategy so these questions are to find out how the strategy fared and what assessment were made of its success. Each question refers to a referenced point in the strategy document.
Page 3 point 1: Shropshire Council … has set itself a target to reduce carbon emissions from Council operations by 35% by 31 March 2014 from a baseline set at 2008-09 levels: What was achieved by the target date? Has any subsequent reduction target been set or achieved?
Page 3 under “Other Key Considerations”: The government’s consultation paper, “Building a Greener Future: Toward Zero Carbon Development” proposes that all newly built houses will have to be operating as carbon neutral by 2016. Are all newly built houses in Shropshire now operating as carbon-neutral?
Page 5 point 2: ‘Schools in Shropshire are encouraged to follow the Shropshire sustainable schools agenda to ensure key messages and actions are communicated effectively in all schools.’ Has the sustainable schools agenda been implemented in the county’s schools? What measurable outcomes – if any – has the Council recorded following this?
Page 7, Medium Term Projects b): ‘Install LED street lighting’. What progress has been made toward the goal of installing LED street lighting across the county?
Page 7 under Long Term projects a) ‘Introduce purchase requirement for lower emission vehicles’. Is this requirement in place and is it being enforced? What emissions reductions have been achieved as a result?
Page 7 under Long Term projects b) ‘Introduce low/zero emission bus services’. Have any low- or zero-emission bus services been introduced anywhere in the county? If so, how many vehicles and what type?
Page 7 under Long Term projects d) ‘Continue with solar thermal/PV installations’ How much solar thermal / PV capacity in kW has been installed to date on Council properties or land? How many possible sites have been identified, and how many have seen such installations?