Questions, questions, questions…

Reigate Town HallAt last week’s Borough Council meeting, in response to a question from Cllr Essex, the Council announced that, in future, questions asked at Council meetings by Councillors and members of the public will be published on the Council’s website, along with the answers drafted by Council officers.

This is a big step forward for local democracy, as, until now, this information was only available on the private section of the Council’s website, only visible to Councillors and other authorised users, and was not included in the minutes of the meetings.

However, it is only a step, as the answers drafted by officers are not always the same as the answers given by the Council Executive Member responding to the question. The Executive Member’s answer is often much more political in nature. Additionally, the questioner is allowed to ask a supplementary question, which the Executive Member is expected to answer – neither the supplementary question nor its answer will be published as a result of this change in policy.

We believe that, in the interests of democracy and accountability, all of the questions and answers, as they were presented at the meeting, should be available for public scrutiny. Transcribing the questions and answers in full is, obviously, a lot of work, but this would be unnecessary if the entire meeting was recorded and made available as a downloadable audio file.

Not everyone can attend a Council meeting, but the proceedings that take place are everyone’s business (and, indeed, are funded by everyone’s Council Tax). We will continue to push for greater transparency in the workings of our local Council.

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