When a member of the public asks a question in a Full Council Meeting, it is to get some sense of progress on an issue. It should be a forum whereby the Councillor provides a meaningful response and not an opportunity for them to be defensive, with the objective of proving that they were not culpable or to ridicule the questioner.
On 3 February 2016, Brendan Connelly asked a question of Cllr Banwait relating to why it was so difficult to get a meeting with him. The purpose of the proposed meeting was to seek his help in resolving an issue with respect to disabled access to the Nottingham Rd Cemetery. Mr Connelly was advocating on behalf of his friend Dave ( not his real name) who is disabled. Dave has not been able to visit his brother’s grave due to access restrictions; also nothing has been done to upgrade the Cemetery toilets since they were vandalised a few years ago. This is despite a considerable amount of money being spent on other facilities that support Muslim burials – demonstrating that money had been identified for the Cemetery.
Cllr Banwait’s reponse to Mr Connelly’s plea was a documented calendar of how the Council managed to dodge doing the right thing and delay any sensible action. Mr Connelly complained twice during this process, thus, unwittingly allowing everything to be referred to the Monitoring officer for an investigation. An action which might have been entirely in line with the process, but which showed zero common sense or pragmatism. Perhaps working with him might have been constructive?
Video of Cllr Banwait’s response to Mr Connelly’s question
Cllr Banwait smugly felt that he had demonstrated to his “audience” that he had check-mated Mr Connelly. He concluded that by making an offer to Dave and Mr Connelly to visit his house over a tea, coffee, …or brandy “if that’s allowed” to discuss the way forwards, and appear positive, would close the issue.
Despite a public commitment from Cllr Banwait that he made about his personal accessibility and his bold statement that “his record is there to be challenged” it took him a further 8 weeks to meet up with Dave, and Mr Connelly. When Cllr Banwait finally came to Dave’s house, he was joined by Christine Durrant (Deputy Chief Executive), spoke very little, and made his apologies and left after just 14 minutes! A tick in the box – no more. The short dialogue was followed up by minutes of the meeting which stated that responses would be given and feedback provided on some actions discussed.
Since April, nothing has happened. Dave is no better off, no update has been provided as to when improvements are going to be made, or whether there are any reasons for a delay. There are no longer any excuses. Cllr Banwait continues to fail to deliver.
Mr Connelly wanted to raise this whole issue in Public questions again at the next Council meeting on the 20th July but he was rejected on the basis that his enquiries were frivolous and repetitive. I think the Monitoring Officer is, maybe, protecting Cllr Banwait ( as Mr Connelly had been told by the Council that they were accepted….only to be over-turned by the Monitoring Officer). Cllr Banwait had his time to “showboat” in the Chamber in February and tried to undermine Mr Connelly’s position. Time has now caught up with him and he has been found wanting….again.
It is now the norm that Public questions in the Council are rarely answered with diligence and clarity by the Cabinet. It is a formalised “fob-off”! This really indicates how the Cabinet views the people that they serve. Cllr Banwait takes it to another level by seeking ways to blame the questioner for his own lack of performance. A familiar tactic of his. As I’ve questioned many times in the past….When will Cllr Banwait take personal accountability for his performance?
“I will do everything possible to assist you Mr Connelly” states Cllr Banwait – Has he done this? When will he help Dave as he promised in February 2016?
Categories: Derby City Council