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Tweets and a Dead Parrot

April 26, 2012 4:05 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Councillor Hazel Watson, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Surrey County Council, has tabled the following four written questions to the Leader of the Council for the Annual General Meeting on 8 May 2012.

Dead Parrot

Dead parrot

Since the original announcement of the Community Partnered Libraries proposals for the County's libraries to be run by volunteers we have seen Molesey Library withdrawn from the plan, part time paid staff allocated to libraries and the threat of ongoing staff training costs all meaning that the plan can no longer be saving the County Council money. In other words the often-stated reason that the County Council is pushing ahead with the plans to save them from closure no longer adds up. Will the Leader agree with me that the only reason that the plans are still being pursued is dogma, that he does not want to see himself tainted like his predecessor by a failed ill-conceived proposal, and that the plans like the famous Monty Python sketch, are a dead parrot nailed to the perch to give an impression of still being alive?

Democracy before tweets

At the 24 April Cabinet meeting I asked a written question regarding Community Partnered Libraries. You read out a statement announcing that the plans would go back to the June Cabinet meeting in response to that question. I requested a copy of that statement and was told by you that it would be made available after the meeting. Checking back the webcast of the meeting, this was at 14.06. I later learnt that also at 14.06 a Tweet appeared from the County Council's media team saying "Council to take libraries decision again", with a link to a copy of the statement on the http://news.surreycc.gov.uk website.

Does the Leader agree that it shows extreme disrespect to press release a reply to a member before giving the member a copy of the reply, and will he undertake to ensure that there will be no further instances of this putting spin before the democratic process?

Checks and balances

A number of members from across all sides of the Council Chamber have raised concerns that the Member Asset Panel has been effectively abolished removing the necessary checks and balances it provided and the route to tapping the knowledge provided by local members. Will the Leader agree to reinstate the Member Asset Panel forthwith?

Knowledge hub at best unwise

The Local Government Association facilitates an internet discussion forum facility called the "Knowledge Hub". One of the forums listed is the "Surrey CC Workspace" which is described as "A private community for senior officers and members of Surrey County Council. This CoP has been established to facilate (sic) cross directorate working and strategic thinking." Given the constitutional requirements on discussions and meetings between officers and members, the separation of roles between officers and members and Freedom of Information requirements, would the Leader agree with me that such a forum is at best unwise and at worst in breach of the County Council's Constitution?