“It’s not North Korea”…would you believe it! Nail in the coffin of democracy! The LCC leader has been accused of acting like a dictator after councillors outside the cabinet were banned from speaking at top level meetings. Cllr Driver said cabinet meetings were being turned into a “circus”. Watch and listen to it below!
Opposition leader Azhar Ali said the decision was an “affront to democracy”. He added “People need to be heard. They represent thousands of people who rely on them. It’s not North Korea”. The motion was passed at a cabinet meeting at County Hall in Preston on 8th March.
Mr Driver said it was not against the council’s constitution and would stop “political grandstanding”, with some councillors “abusing their privileges of being able to speak”. “Cabinet is where business decision are taken,” he said. “I am not prepared to let them turn it into a circus.”
This latest row shows just how divided Lancashire County Council is at the minute. Despite the fact Mr Driver maintains his administration is simply following the council’s constitution, opposition councillors are furious. They feel as if they’ve been silenced and are unable to influence or challenge decisions.
With the authority’s budget under immense pressure and sustained criticism of Mr Driver’s leadership, a number of councillors believe the authority can’t continue much longer in its current form. The decision prompted anger among councillors.
Labour’s Matthew Tomlinson , who represents Leyland Central, tweeted that they were being “gagged”. Lancaster South East’s Erica Lewis, also Labour, said the ban was “outrageous”. However, Mr Driver claimed “hundreds if not thousands” of decisions were taken “behind closed doors” by the previous Labour-led administration, while his administration “could not be more open”.
Cllr Ali said “It has become a circus because of the attempts to gag councillors. It is a nail in the coffin of democracy in Lancashire.” Liberal Democrat councillor David Whipp has complained to the council’s monitoring officer, claiming Mr Driver was “riding roughshod over the constitutional rights of back bench and opposition leaders”.