A farce at Wirral Council’s public question time (Act 1, Scene 1) No microphone, silent musical chairs & no answers
Wirral Council Council meeting on the 15th December 2015 starting at public question time agenda item
Public question time at Wirral Council’s meeting on the evening of the 15th December 2015 was a farce. You can watch this in the video above. I’d better declare an interest as I was one of the two asking questions of Cllr Adrian Jones.
The first member of the public to ask a question was Mrs Nowell (yes it’s Christmas although I’m not making that name up), she was ushered to a chair by Patrick Sebastian to ask her question.
However there was no microphone there.
Cllr Phil Davies (giving up his chair for the second time this week having earlier this week given up the Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) then gave up his chair for Mrs. Nowell. So in the Town Hall version of musical chairs (but without any music) everyone got a chair except Cllr Phil Davies who was left standing next to Mr. Tour.
The seasonal fun however did not end there!
Mrs Nowell got about four words into her question to be interrupted by Cllr Ann McLachlan sitting to her left who then apologised.
Mrs Nowell resumed her question which was,
The Mayor thanked her for the question.
Cllr Adrian Jones then replied as follows, "Mayor, it is customary to have some advance notice of the question! I’ve had no advance notice and therefore I’m very happy to give a written reply!"
I will point out at this stage that unlike myself Mrs Nowell submitted her question about a month before the meeting (which reminds me of the following famous poem I have rewritten for this):
Yet they grind exceeding slowly;
Though with patience Cllr Adrian Jones stands waiting for the question,
Waiting for the question which he has done for a whole month,
He is never sent it.
The Mayor looked at Mrs Nowell and asked, "Is that OK for a written reply?"
She answered, "That means I don’t get to ask another question. I did email the question in plenty of time."
The Mayor then said to Cllr Adrian Jones, "Cllr Adrian Jones is it possible to give a reply? I understand that you don’t know the full details."
Cllr Adrian Jones answered, "Mr Mayor, I’ve had no advance notice of this, therefore I’ve done no research on this occasion, I’d be very happy to give a written reply but I think in any case it’ll have gone to planning, therefore it will be dealt with fully at that particular point."
The Mayor thanked Mrs Nowell for her question.
As Cllr Jones had now answered she asked the following supplementary, "Why was Cllr Blakeley not allowed to respond to Dan Stephens at the Regeneration meeting?"
The Mayor said, "Cllr Adrian Jones is the Cabinet Member for this particular question to be addressed to."
Cllr Adrian Jones said, "Had I been given some advance notice, I would have done something about it, I’m terribly sorry but we do have a system here as a courtesy, if you want to ask a question."
A councillor heckled, "But she’s done that!"
Surjit Tour said, "I’ll need to look into why the question and the issue about the question why it didn’t make its way to Cllr Jones and I’ll respond to that for that as regards to the process."
Cllr Jeff Green said, "Mr Mayor, we do have the Chair of the relevant select Committee, maybe Cllr Sullivan could answer that?"
Surjit Tour replied, "The appropriate form for a further question to come to Council around that advance notice of it, I appreciate the expectation was that it would be appropriate for a question to be asked in the circumstances."
The Mayor said, "OK, there seems to have been some sort of delay in the question, advance notice being got to the Cabinet Member or the Chair so we need to give them the opportunity to research that and give you a written response."
Mrs Nowell replied, "My second question, I don’t have to give notice of that you see!"
The Mayor said, "It’s called a supplementary question and unfortunately you’re unable to ask the supplementary because the substantive question hasn’t been answered and replied to."
Cllr Chris Blakeley said, "Can I ask, as I know Mrs Nowell submitted the question some time ago, why hasn’t it found its way to the Cabinet Member for a response to that?"
Surjit Tour replied, " I’ll have to look into to understand exactly what has happened."
Mrs Nowell said, "I sent the question to you."
There was laughter from councillors at this point.
Surjit Tour continued, "Yes, that’s agreed, apologies for not following the process, I just need to understand why Cllr Adrian Jones didn’t get the question and then I’ll report back to Council after that moment."
Cllr Adrian Jones said, "Mr Mayor I would be very happy to deal with this question at the next meeting and it goes without saying that I promise to do everything within my power to protect Council." There was more laughter at this point.
The Mayor said, "Under those circumstances, could I ask that the question be asked at the next Council meeting? Where opportunity will have been given to the.. Adrian Jones?"
Cllr Chris Blakeley added, "It may well be too late Mr Mayor!"
The Mayor finished by saying "We’re going to have to leave it to the written reply then I’m sorry."
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