“There isn’t a council more transparent than us in the country” says Barnsley Council leader

The leader of Barnsley Council said “There isn’t a council more transparent than us in the country,” during a debate on the length of time councillors have to ask questions during meetings.

By Danielle Andrews, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:44 am

Sir Steve Houghton leader of the council, told a meeting of full council today (May 27) that the council is “as open and transparent as any council can be”, and that there is not “a problem with transparency”.

Councillor Hannah Kitching, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, submitted a motion to extend the length of time councillors can ask questions at full council from 30 minutes to an hour.

She argued that openness and scrutiny is “a keystone of democracy”, and added that it is “disappointing” for residents to attend the full meeting, “for their question to go unanswered”.

The meeting.

“I’ve been delighted to see members’ questions facility become popular and well-used.

“We embrace openness, transparency, and scrutiny as keystones of our democracy.”

Coun Kitching added that the 30-minute time limit was not “sufficient”.

Sir Steve Houghton responded that members can “ask questions 365 days of the year”, and that extending the time allowed for questioning, other council business would suffer.

He emphasised that there is no issue with transparency at Barnsley Council.

“No ones trying to prevent anyone from asking questions. No ones ever had their councillor questions not published. There isn’t a problem with transparency.”

Cllr Houghton added that Barnsley “is not Sheffield, thank goodness.”

Sheffield recently voted for the council to move to a committee system – All decisions will now have to be considered at a meeting of a cross-party committee and not by individual councillors.

Cllr Houghton added: “They are going to make changes in Sheffield but I feel they will come to regret it. It’s going to have some significant challenges that other great cities don’t have.”

The Lib Dem’s original amendment to extend question time was voted down.

However, an amendment to publish questions and responses on the council’s website immediately after meetings was accepted.