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QUESTION TIME QUESTION

25-02-2010

Taxpayers should have been able to watch leaders’ question time at this week’s budget setting Birmingham Council meeting on the internet – so why wasn’t it available to view?

The local authority’s Business Management Committee agreed in December that the monthly opportunity to hold Mike Whitby and his colleagues to account would be recorded and posted online – all in the name of improving our democracy.

Just one hurdle remained – the agreement of the respective Group Secretaries from each of the main parties.

Our understanding is that the only one who objected when they met last week was the Tory, Cllr Stuart Clarkson, who has effectively vetoed the opportunity for a million Brummies to watch their own Council – leaving detailed knowledge of what goes on in the Chamber to a couple of hacks and political groupies.

Labour leader Sir Albert Bore asks, “What have the Tories got to hide?” - and goes on to provide his own answer, citing the “ham fisted” performances of Whitby when put on the spot by the opposition.

This may or may not be accurate, but the sad truth is that most of us will never know because despite espousing “accountability, openness and transparency” the Council is anything but.

Nor is this an isolated example.

The authority recently announced a review of its members’ services – but although this is a cross-party issue, the key decisions will be taken by the secretive PEP committee chaired by deputy Conservative leader Len Gregory.

PEP has no published agenda, no minutes and even the whereabouts of meetings isn’t put into the public domain.

“Accountability, openness and transparency”? We don’t think so.

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