Witnessing death of democracy at Scarborough Council meeting

Scarborough Town Hall
Scarborough Town Hall

Democracy died this week at Scarborough Council’s meeting; sadly I was there to witness it.

The meeting opened with what should have been a dry “Point of Order” about not sticking to the rules. Instead we entered the realms of Alice in Wonderland.

The Red Queen, here disguised as the mayor, ruled that a query on a breach of legislation and the council’s constitution wasn’t a Point of Order - they have to be about, er, breaches of law or the council’s constitution.

A group of about 10 councillors decided this was too much nonsense and it was time to leave the meeting and the rabbit hole.

The rest either saw no problem or, I vainly hoped, stayed to scrutinise the cabinet’s decisions.

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee then arrived and we learned a little of the mystery that could not be discussed. We had, at some cost, obtained an “opinion” that councillors can be stopped attending full council meetings to represent us but we can’t know by what power because we are not allowed to look at the “opinion” we paid for.

After 50 years of watching public money washed away in courts, I have greater belief in Jabberwockies than most “robust legal opinions” paid for by councils.
(That is not an excuse for any disfranchised voter of Hertford to test the “opinion” in court - we can’t afford to pay.)

To be serious, bar two, the councillors who stayed did not scrutinise the cabinet’s decisions:

A new Scarborough Town Centre Strategy informed us of a crisis. Our footfall is incredibly high but few spend any money. I anticipated concern about all the eggs the council has put in the North Bay basket instead of the town centre. Closed toilets have also brought back alarm about town centre public urination.

But the Cheshire Cat grins all round the council chamber showing everything in Council Land was fine and dandy.

And the £150,000 we will now spend on the next Tour de Yorkshire, which brings even more people who don’t spend any money, went through without any debate.

Scarborough deserves better.

After this meeting’s performance I now hope new faces fill 30 or more of the 46 vacancies that will arise at next year’s elections; young people especially, though one or two seasoned faces would be welcome provided they can do new tricks.

And I’d be happy to advise anyone considering volunteering to stand - politics (almost) irrelevant.

Mick Haigh
(Old Town councillor
1993-2001)
Woodside
Scarborough