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Urgent or Important?

August 30, 2018 4:50 PM
By Nick Webb in Teesside Gazette

In response to Councillor Beall's letter, regarding the recent cancellation of a meeting of Stockton Borough Council, there is a distinction to be made between what is urgent and what is important. While it could be argued that there were no urgent matters to discuss, there were other issues which could have been discussed, such as Councillor Cherrett's question on single use plastics, an important environmental matter which is of great interest to many residents.

Moreover, the cancellation of July's meeting raises broader questions about what the purpose of council meetings should be. They exist so that issues can be brought to the table by councillors who represent different geographical areas and different points of view. The value of council meetings should be that they provide a forum for debate, ensure that different points of view are heard and should provide the opportunity to hold the Council to account for its decisions. Many of the decision making powers have been already been transferred from full Council to Cabinet and to committees.

When viewed against this backdrop the cancellation of July's meeting can be seen as part of a wider issue in which the local political agenda is being determined by one group and once decisions have been made based on that agenda, there is insufficient opportunity to scrutinise them and hold the decision makers to account. When alternative views are stifled, politics and democracy as a whole becomes worse off because those good ideas and positive contributions cannot make it into the mainstream agenda, either when the policy agenda is set or in the process of making and scrutinising decisions.

Nick Webb

Secretary of the Stockton Liberal Democrats