Leader of the Havering Residents’ Association calling for more democracy in borough
The Leader of Havering Residents’ Association has accused the council of slowly “squeezing out democracy” after the decision to replace the ask the cabinet sessions with a new community forum.
Cllr Clarence Barrett (RA, Cranham) has hit out against the council’s plans to introduce a new public forum called Havering Community Questions which would see the Leader of the Council, Michael White as the only councillor on the panel.
He said: “I think democracy is slowly being squeezed out. In a democracy people are supposed to have access to their representatives and we need to get back to that.”
The first forum is set to take place on Monday, November 19, from 7pm to 9pm at Havering Town Hall in Main Road, Romford.
The panel is set to consist of Leader of the Council Michael White, along with Chief Superintendant Mick Smith from Havering Police and Dr Atul Aggarwal, who heads Havering’s new GP commissioning group.
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Meetings will take place four times a year and will be chaired by an independent member of the community.
The first will be chaired by Mark Sweetingham, editor of the Romford Recorder.
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The meetings will also be webcast over the internet and available to view live or afterwards.
But Cllr Barrett has said that it exclude the other leaders of the political parties.
He said: “I think it’s a step backwards because there is no chance for the residents to meet the leaders of the other political parties, it is just one council representative.”
Ask the cabinet sessions were introduced following the removal of area committees to give the public a chance to ask the administration questions.
But the meetings came to an abrupt end when a session was cancelled in August at short notice.
Cllr Barrett said: “We went from having area committee meetings where residents could speak to their local councillors, to ask the cabinet meetings where it was just cabinet members. The council calls itself open, but I think it needs to be more open and accessible.”
Leader of the Council, Michael White said that the new forum would provide better opportunity for residents to speak to the decision makers.
He said: “It’s a chance for residents to come and ask questions to the people who run the services and find out about the way theses services are delivered.
“There are more opportunities today than ever for members of the public to communicate with their local councillors.”