Culture change overdue for parish councils

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How many readers, like me, are disturbed by the action taken by Sutton Bridge parish council who reportedly seek to mask their accounts?

At Moulton Parish Council, a similar contoversy was reported recently in these pages.

One wishes in both cases more power to parishioners and less to parish councillors.

Both reports reflect my experience with Pinchbeck Parish Council during the time they doubled our taxes (2007-2011).

During that period I made it my business to attend the public forum to criticise their poor procurement record and overspending.

Those who responded to my charges were often defensive and patronising while the remainder sat silently bristling with indignation.

They often stressed that they are not paid and that they give up their time freely as if by that measure they shouldn’t be expected to tolerate criticism.

It confirmed my view that these are such who like to mark their own homework while patting themselves on the back.

This did not change after reading that the Sutton Bridge council chairman, responding to questions about payments, said he was hoping for some measure of “disappearing’’ in the accounts.

Further adding that “we are advised by the external auditors that we might mask it in some way”.

A travesty of local accountability and apparently defended by law?

Let us be quite clear; if it is not the job of all elected representatives to defend local democracy against such blatantly unjust and ridiculous laws that condone masking and gagging in such matters then whose job is it?

If we cannot achieve openness and accountability at this very basic level of governance then I despair. Changes are certainly needed to put parish councils right.

Here’s what I suggest. Every parish council meeting should be an open forum. The minutes of every parish meeting (including accounts) to be displayed in the most suitable public place. All such meetings to be fully reported in the local press without censorship.

Finally, I believe without such basic measures these councils are in danger of remaining unrepresentative, unaccountable and ultimately unworthy of public trust and respect.

A culture change is long overdue at this level.

Hopefully more young local workers and business people who share the belief that only complete openness and transparency in public affairs is acceptable will get involved.

david turp

Wimberley Way

Pinchbeck