LIB DEMS SLAM LABOUR FAILURE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS - "UNACCEPTABLE, UNPROFESSIONAL, AND UNACCOUNTABLE" SAYS STONE

October 18, 2011 5:28 PM

Two senior councillors on Newcastle City Council's ruling Labour administration have been named and shamed by Opposition Liberal Democrats for attempting to evade scrutiny by ignoring emailed questions.

Cabinet member Henri Murison - responsible for a vast "Quality of Life" portfolio covering everything from arts and culture to transport and housing - is accused of failing to respond to a request sent by Cllr Greg Stone, the chair of the North Heaton ward committee, asking him to respond to requests made at a ward meeting to set out his approach to tackling pavement parking enforcement locally and elsewhere in the city. The issue was raised at a ward meeting at the beginning of September, and communicated to Cllr Murison in a polite email sent on September 8th.

Similary, deputy member for housing Cllr Helen McStravick is accused of failing to respond to an email sent by Cllr Stone on September 12th asking her to define her objectives for housing policy in the city, after she invited councillors to contact her to discuss any housing related issues. No acknowledgement or response in either case.

Cllr Greg Stone commented: "When they took office, Labour claimed that they intended to place a great deal of emphasis on political accountability, and stressed that their political office-holders would be accountable for their decisions. This is not a very impressive start. Despite having had over a month to reply to straightforward and courteous emails asking them to set out their approach to two topics of general public interest, we have heard not a peep from them."

"Whilst I can understand that the question may have been a little too difficult for Cllr McStravick, who tends to rely heavily on officer advice, I am concerned that Labour have introduced rules which prevent me from questioning her directly about it in the council chamber, and consider that this is very far from accountability.

"I am also very disappointed that the usually loquacious Cllr Murison appears to be so uncommunicative in this case. Parking on pavements is a hot topic in many parts of the city and residents of my ward expressed a genuine and non-partisan interest in hearing what the responsible Cabinet member intends to do about the problem. I can only assume that the breadth of his workload means that he is too busy to answer my question. Alternatively, it is conceivable that answers to both questions have to be vetted by the Leader of the Council and are currently languishing in his in-tray, which is widely believed to be over-flowing.

Either way, their attitude is unacceptable, unprofessional, and unaccountable, and it is quite simply not good enough".