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More Secrecy at Wokingham District Council under the Tory Administration, say Lib Dems

July 2, 2004 12:00 AM

The Leader of Wokingham District Council, Tory Councillor Frank Browne, at last night's Council Annual Meeting announced that he proposed to disband three working groups.

Leader of the Opposition, Lib Dem Councillor Coling Lawley, said, "Just when you think that Frank has thought of all the ways to make the Council less transparent and accountable, he finds another way of keeping everything secret and making it more difficult for us to hold him to account."

The three working groups to be disbanded are:

  • SECONDARY SCHOOL REVIEW WORKING GROUP This working group was set up to tackle the problem of the shortage of secondary school places in the district.
  • SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WORKING GROUP This working group was set up to integrate all the services for children and young people.
  • STRATEGIC PLANNING & TRANSPORTATION WORKING GROUP This working group takes on the all-important role of forming the Council's planning policy for building development, and the transport and the infrastructure requirements to support it.

Coling Lawley said, "Frank's approach is to do away with the tried and tested working groups and replace them with his own discredited policy teams. The intention is clear: he doesn't want to let anyone know what is going on. The Tory policy teams are secret meetings and the Lib Dems are barred from attending.

"Although Frank says that the Lib Dems refused to attend his meetings, the truth is that we have only ever been invited to join two: Frank chose who to invite, and then it was only for a half-hour session. This makes a mockery of open democracy and, if the roles were reversed, Frank would not contemplate accepting such a loaded invitation.

"He can't say on the one hand that he wants open and accountable local government, and then on the other hand refuse to allow the opposition to take part in the business of the Council. Frank admitted that 104 secret meetings had taken place in the Council last year. Clearly this year he is out to beat his own record."