Friday, 6 February 2015

Contempt For Democracy Part 1

So, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign got to present their petition, with over 5000 signatures, to full Council. Sadly it's almost as if they needn't have bothered.

Because the petition reached the magic 5k the council was required to actually debate the petition motion. I'm not sure that this has ever happened before (I'm prepared to be corrected so do write in) so it's a significant matter to be considered.

Anyway, here's what Nottingham City Council considers to be a debate.

Firstly, an extract from the standing orders concerning petitions that require a debate due to having received the required number of signatures -

"The relevant Portfolio Holder(s) will present a provisional written response to the petition to inform discussion and to help full Council agree a response."

In this case it was the beloved Leader, so 'inform the discussion' and 'help...agree a response' is pretty much a direct instruction. An d here's the 'provisional written response' he provided -

“Nottingham City Council acknowledges receipt of the petition collated by Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which accumulated over 5000 signatures from Nottingham residents.

Nottingham City Council’s petitions scheme requires that a petition will be debated at a meeting of the City Council if it receives 5000 or more signatures from Nottingham residents and is presented to the Head of Constitutional Services at least 12 working days prior to the next Council meeting. This scheme was introduced by the City Council in June 2010 following national legislation which, at that time, required Councils to have a petitions scheme.

The City Council recognises the hard work of the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign in gathering over 5000 signatures, which were counted and verified as representing Nottingham people.

As a local authority, Nottingham City Council has responsibility for local services and influence over many issues of local concern. From cleaning streets and caring for the vulnerable, to job creation and encouraging investment, the remit of the City Council is wide and varied. As a City Council these are our primary concerns and we should focus most of our time on these issues where we can have direct control or influence. Nonetheless, we also recognise that international issues such as this are of great concern to many local people, and it is therefore important that they receive due consideration when representations such as these are made locally.

Nottingham City Council takes seriously its responsibility to promote community cohesion. Our recent ‘Citizen Survey’ shows that 90% of those asked feel that Nottingham is a place where people of different backgrounds and opinions get on well together. The Council will continue to do all we can to maintain and improve this and are therefore happy to transparently work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign to  address the concerns raised in the petition for further consideration within our local context.”

Note the complete lack of any concrete commitments there.

Oh and the debate? From the minutes -

"The petition and the written response were debated by Councillors, and the response was supported."

Words fail etc. And so does democracy.

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