Wycombe Labour called for the resignation of the cabinet member for Wycombe District Council, Cllr Jean Teesdale, responsible for approving the introduction of an ANPR car parking system. The system is not working and has wasted £1.3 million so far. The Bucks Free Press has been investigating the system but WDC has refused to answer its questions.
WDC - the Council that won't answer questions
In response, Councillor Ahmed, Labour's Councillor for Disraeli, said
"Wycombe District Council needs reminding about the principles which public office holders, including Councillors, are expected to uphold. For example, holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this. Holders of public office should also act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
These principles aren't optional - they are fundamental to the way the British public sector operates. WDC seems to think these principles of British public life don't apply to them and they can withhold information if it is inconvenient or simply embarrassing to them.
This is not the first time WDC has withheld information. Recently I was not allowed to put a question to Full Council about WDC taking in Syrian refugees. WDC officials have refused to talk to me about a child safety issue, and officials and Councillors have refused to answer questions about the same issue raised by a colleague. WDC has refused to provide information about the funding of the PREVENT programme on the grounds of national security and we have had to ask for an internal review. I could go on.
WDC is also getting more and more secretive.
Members of the public and Councillors used to have time to ask questions at Full Council and get a proper answer. The time to ask a question has now been cut to one minute, questioners frequently get interrupted and rarely get a proper answer - that's if they manage to get their question down in the first place. Questions have to go down 5 working days in advance and all you get is a prepared speech written by one of the officials and read out by a Cabinet member. This is not openness. It is not accountability. It is not democracy.
WDC's response on the ANPR system is typical. First it doesn't answer the question. Second it is nonsense to say releasing the details of an enforcement policy will affect WDC's ability to manage its car parks. Other organisations- for example the police, the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Safety Executive - all manage to publish enforcement policies on a range of issues without damaging their operational effectiveness because they believe the public is entitled to know. WDC must be pretty hopeless if it can't manage to do the same.
WDC don't want to tell the BFP about the ANPR system because something is obviously wrong. You just know something is wrong when an organisation won't answer questions."
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