So, Manchester City Council has 96 Councillors. 91 belong to Labour, and a more craven bunch of neoliberal stooges you are unlikely to find this side of the Conservative party.
The City Council has an executive system, meaning 10 of the (Labour) councillors run the show, with a “cabinet” and a “leader.” There are six “scrutiny” committees that are supposed to keep tabs on the cabinet and the officers. Members of the public allegedly have the right to address those scrutiny committees. But in practice, nope. So what happens is dutiful and ambitious Labour councillors put themselves forward to be scrutiny chairs. And then they make sure there is never any scandal or awkwardness. Nothing to see here, and if anything is wrong, well IT IS ALL CENTRAL GOVERNMENT’S FAULT.
To quote from a comment on a recent blog post on Climate Emergency Manchester (I co-founded it, but haven’t been involved since November 2021)
Councillor Rob Nunney (a member of the Environment & Climate Change Scrutiny Committee) and myself, both from Manchester Green Party, were involved in Grahame’s application to Mandie Shilton Godwin (Chair of the Environment & Climate Change Scrutiny Committee) to be allowed to speak at the January meeting on aviation. This was in line with Council policy that members of the public may speak so long as they apply beforehand to the chair. As Grahame points out, he was not allowed to do so.
This is a failure of the democratic process. If a member of the public thinks that they have vital information to contribute to a debate that the Council is having, they should be welcomed to do so. Why wasn’t Grahame allowed to speak? There was plenty of time – the chair had said at the previous meeting of the scrutiny committee that the agenda for January was light.
So, I wrote the following FOIA to firstname.lastname@example.org
I note with weariness that once again Manchester City Council is trampling on democratic processes and the purported “rights” of citizens.
I refer to the fact that a resident of Manchester wanted to address the “scrutiny committee” so democratically-chaired by Mandie Shilton-Godwin (“Environment and ‘Climate Change'”) and he was not able to do so.
What a surprise.
Please provide answers to the following
1. a) copies of email discussions/memos between Cllr Shilton-Godwin and other members of the council (officers, elected members) pertaining to this request to address the “Scrutiny” Committtee.
b) copies of emails from Cllr Shilton-Godwin to the member of the public who requested – via two councillors – to speak, explaining the reasons why she was not going to allow him to exercise his democratic rights.
2. What instructions/advice/training exist for scrutiny committee chairs about creating a space for members of the public to speak.
Please provide a copy of this advice, and when it was last updated.
Please tell me when this training will be updated, since it is CLEARLY not working.
3. Does the council keep any record of how frequently members of the public
a) request permission to address any of the six scrutiny committee
b) how many times this has been granted
c) how many times this has been denied and for what “reason”
d) If the council does NOT keep such basic information, why not, and does it have any intention of doing so.
4. Does the Council have any intention of publicising the existence of its scrutiny committee meetings more broadly than simply an agenda buried deep on its appalling website. If so, what are these plans? If not, why not?
Please consider this a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
Dr Marc Hudson
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