Jo Negrini’s sensitivities over questions about her jaunt to the South of France last month, where she attended the champagne-soaked MIPIM conference with international property developers, has seen the council’s unaccountable CEO not only refuse to answer letters from residents, but also get public questions to Town Hall meetings blocked, too.
This includes questions from residents worried about the impact which the council’s own Brick by Brick developments might have on their family homes.
Earlier this week, we reported how Negrini and the Borough Solicitor, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, had refused to answer directly a Council Tax-payer’s enquiry into the trip to Cannes taken by the CEO and three senior council execs.
Instead, they treated the questions about the business of the trip as a Freedom of Information request.
This report prompted our loyal reader (another one) to contact us to complain about a question they had tried to have asked at the last full council meeting, on March 26. The question was never put forward for a formal answer from the borough’s elected councillors.
The question was: “What was the benefit to Croydon residents to send the CEO Jo Negrini and a Brick by Brick delegation to the MIPIM Conference in Cannes in the South of France for four days at our expense?”
The resident’s question was ruled out of order by the borough’s monitoring officer, Harris-Baker. In an email from the council, our loyal reader was advised, “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…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’.”
Our loyal reader is unimpressed. “It’s councilese gibberish, and complete nonsense, too.
“My question clearly gives Negrini and the council the opportunity to outline what benefits there might be of her and three colleagues spending £17,000 of our money on going to Cannes for four days.”
A Katharine Street source has told Inside Croydon that this level of interference by council officials in what is allowed to be asked of elected councillors sets a dangerous precedent. “The idea that someone is vetting the public’s questions that they want to put to their elected representatives is very Big Brother indeed. It’s blatant censorship, and a form of media management over what gets discussed in the Town Hall chamber. What have they got to hide?”
Inside Croydon has recently reported how other questions, raised from the chamber floor by elected councillors on matters which raise issues about the competence and probity of senior council officials, have also been blocked through interventions by Negrini and Harris-Baker.
The council has admitted (through its eventual FoI response) that it had no records or minutes of any of the meetings which Negrini, Heather Cheesbrough or Shifa Mustafa may have had while attending the “booze and hooker fest” that is MIPIM (they didn’t mention Colm Lacey, in the South of France on Brick by Brick business).
Nor, the council has conceded, do they conduct any evaluation of the effectiveness of attending the event.
Our other loyal reader, still disappointed to have been denied democratic access to his own councillors on the matter, said, “Maybe they didn’t like my question because they don’t have a credible answer?”
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