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Liberal Democrat Councillors gagged for asking too many questions

April 6, 2009 8:48 PM

Councillors silencedLiberal Democrat Councillors have promised to continue to ask questions despite new Council rules designed to make it harder to do. In an echo of George Orwell's 1984 these changes have been described as "improvements" by Spelthorne's Tory majority.

New rules are being introduced which will restrict the number of questions that Councillors may ask at Council meetings. Prior to 2007 Councillors could ask any number of questions, giving three days notice. This was reduced so that Councillors were restricted to one local Ward question and one general question. This is now to be cut further to only one question per Councillor.

Over and above this the right to ask a follow-up supplementary question will be restricted to points of clarification only. To add insult to injury the answer may in future not even be read out on the night.

Councillors will have to give five working days notice before the Council meeting for questions. The local LibDems do not directly oppose this measure as it is not unreasonable and will allow adequate time for a proper answer to be prepared.

The reason that the Tories have taken these measures is because your LibDem Councillors have been asking questions to hold the majority group to account and to get issues into the public domain. A record of the questions asked in the last year is available on this website (see link below) and none of them are in any way frivolous.

This is yet another Tory measure to restrict the opportunities for scrutiny of Council decisions and behaviours. LibDem Group Leader Colin Strong said "This illustrates the very clear difference between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. We fundamentally believe in open government whereas the Tories don't want any proper scrutiny of their policies and decisions. We oppose this move and undertake to undo this policy when we become the majority group."

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