Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Democracy Dead in the 'Dark Corridors of Power'

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Democracy Dead in the 'Dark Corridors of Power'

Article excerpt

IT would appear that democracy is now dead when it comes to full council meetings held in the council chamber in Middlesbrough Town Hall. ( Boycott over council 'gag' 12.01.17).

I attended the "open council" meeting towards the end of 2016 when there were minor interruptions from two or three members of the public relating to controversial policies being implemented by Middlesbrough Council.

These frustrated outbursts were in my view the direct result of the ruling Labour Group's decision to effectively withdraw public questions from full council meetings and "gagging" opposition councillors from submitting written questions to the mayor and his executive.

Independent Cllr Jon Rathmell, with Cllr Brian Hubbard representing Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association (MICA) are right to challenge the council monitoring officer and council chairman Cllr Steve Bloundele who rejected 14 questions from independent councillors - despite the fact they adhered to the council's constitution.

No wonder that all Middlesbrough Independent Councillors boycotted the meeting held on Wednesday, January 11.

Thank goodness The Gazette has reported the latest attack on local democracy in the increasing secrecy taking place within the "dark corridors of power" of Middlesbrough Town Hall.

KEN WALKER, Acklam Uproar justified on bargain asset sales UPROAR over council bargain basement sales of publicly owned assets is entirely justified. It is a travesty that has been going on for years in all Teesside councils, but is especially telling during a period of pain - euphemistically termed "austerity" - when essential services are being brutally cut and countless public sector workers thrown on to the unemployment scrapheap.

Thornaby Independent Association colleagues and I have been pressing for some time for a full inquiry into this scandal and for a wholly independent audit of all Teesside councils' land and property sales where "preferred" bidders obtain assets at discount cost for no discernible material or financial benefit.

Quite often superior bids have been inexplicably rejected - the consequence of which is that valuable assets are gone forever and millions of pounds lost that could have been used to ease the misery of austerity.

The situation is intolerable and accountability for this breathtaking council largesse is woefully inadequate.

The public can of course go through a futile council complaints procedure before invariably being compelled to contact the Ombudsman as a last resort, but who frustratingly has no power to overturn decisions and merely gives the illusion of justice by "slap on the wrist" censure.

It is a farcical charade of going through the motions to placate public unease, but which in fact does nothing to change the way councils operate. …

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