As we suspected, Jo Negrini’s censorship of the questions that she is willing to answer stretches far and wide – and it is not just the Council Tax-payers who get treated with contempt.
Ahead of last night’s council meeting – the last one before the local elections on May 3 – we reported how one concerned resident had wanted to ask what benefits there had been for the borough of Negrini, the chief executive, and three of her colleagues traipsing off to the French Riviera for three or four days, at a cost to the public of £17,000.
Someone at the council decided to refuse to accept the perfectly reasonable question.
Now another Council Tax-payer, who lives in Purley, has been in touch to tell Inside Croydon that they, too, had a written question refused for last night’s meeting.
On this occasion, the notification of the question being blocked only came through at 5.48pm – less than an hour before the meeting started. “Having been told I would receive a reply to my question in writing, I then received this at 5.48. I wonder if someone didn’t like the question in the pre-meeting meeting?” the resident said.
And the question which the council refused to answer? It was asking how many “genuine” council houses are to be built by Brick by Brick and how many homes will be used to house the homeless. The question asked:
“Referring to the council’s own house building scheme, how many genuine council houses (to remain fully owned by the Council), how many affordable (rented at a percentage below market rate) and how many ‘for private sale’ units have been approved by planning committee to date in total numbers and percentages, and of the genuine council houses or flats, how many will be given to homeless people on the streets who by their nature will not be ‘families’ and therefore probably a lower priority in the housing allocation criteria and how many to people currently in bed and breakfast accommodation, as the chamber was originally told that the scheme was for the benefit of homeless people.”
Now you might think that a campaigning Labour council, doing its bit with millions of pounds of public money to fight the scourge of the homlessness crisis, would want to take every opportunity to answer a question such as that. But not Croydon…
After first having approved the question, belatedly someone in Fisher’s Folly decided to block it. “On this occasion your question has been ruled out by the Monitoring Officer under Part 4A of the Council’s Constitution (para. 3.17), as below:
“‘Questions which relate to a current planning or licensing matter or any matter relating to an individual or entity in respect of which that individual or entity has a right of recourse to a review or right of appeal conferred by or under any enactment shall not be permitted’.”
As one Katharine Street source said today, “It is just censorship, plain and simple, and clearly nonsense. It’s an on-going erosion of the accountability of council officials and councillors. The use of that exclusion by the Borough Solicitor could easily be used by cabinet members to block any awkward questions about their own performance.”
And it seems that in the case of Negrini, it is not only the Croydon public to whom she refuses to explain her reasons for her annual junket to the South of France. It appears that last year, she blocked a question from an elected councillor.
Some determined digging has discovered that last April, Andrew Pelling had posed the question, “Please detail the transactions closed by the chief executive at MIPIM Cannes 2017.”
But the Labour councillor did not get his question tabled because, apparently, “Unfortunately this question does not fall under a Cabinet Member portfolio.”
Which further suggests that Negrini really does think she’s answerable to no one.
*Have you been refused to have a written question submitted to a Town Hall meeting? Email your question and the council’s excuse to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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