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Public interest, secret debate

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Locality Board, sounding the death knell for local democracy.

It's made up of the Canterbury City Council Executive and the 9 Kent County Council members who represent constituencies in the Canterbury District. It meets behind closed doors, and "Minutes (including a record of attendance and any conflicts of interest) will not be widely circulated".

I'll be examining the Locality Board more closely in another post.

Service discussed behind closed doors

The fate of the district's youth centres remains a mystery, after councillors met in private to discuss the issue. A £1 million cut in funding for youth services means there could be only one Kent County Council-funded youth club left in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay. Faversham Youth Club is also under threat.

The newly formed Canterbury Locality Board, which is made up of Canterbury county councillors and members of the ruling Tory executive of the city council, met behind closed doors on Tuesday, March 24 to debate the issue.

Liberal Democrat councillors fear that the secret meeting was used to rubber-stamp controversial plans to keep Whitstable Youth Club open instead of the city’s Riverside Centre, as originally expected. Lib Dem parliamentary spokesman James Flanagan said:

"Decisions like this should be taken in public so that the people taking them are fully accountable. Closing youth clubs can only lead to more young people ending up hanging around on street corners and getting into trouble. For councillors to hide their actions from the public is an absolute disgrace."

A final decision will be made by Kent County Council, and city council bosses said the locality board members had no powers other than to give their views. Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies said:

"The meeting last week discussed the future of KCC’s youth service in the Canterbury district, and city council members were happy to have the opportunity to discuss how that service operates in the months ahead. However, the decision about youth services is one for KCC to take and any queries about its decision-making process should be directed to County Hall."

County councillor Mark Dance insisted that clubs would not close, although they could be funded differently.

"There will be no closures of any of the youth centres in the Canterbury district. However, further details are still in negotiation and will be revealed at the end of the month by cabinet member Councillor Mike Hill."

The board’s discussions will be revealed when the minutes are published of the city council's Scrutiny Committee, which meets on Wednesday, 25th April. Kent County Council will meet on 27th April to debate the issue.

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