Conservative councillors at West Lindsey District Council are furious at being told by Cllr Reg Shore, the Lib Dem Leader of the Council, that they are not allowed to attend Saturday’s Flood Inquiry even as observers. The “Citizens’ Jury Flooding Review” to be held at the new Council offices at Marshalls Yard in Gainsborough on Saturday 19th January 2008 is not, as widely assumed by both councillors and residents, going to be held in public. Last week councillors were told this was because the new Council Chamber was too small, now they have been told that their presence would mean that “it might as well be a Public meeting and not a Jury”.
The Council has hired Birmingham based market research firm, BMG Research to run the event. BMG has promised to pay £50 in cash to each member of the Citizens’ Jury who attends. However, as WLDC is footing the bill, ultimately the £50 cash payouts will be coming from the Council taxpayers of West Lindsey.
Cllr Meg Davidson who made the original suggestion last July that there should be a District-wide flood inquiry said:
“This inquiry is in danger of becoming a ‘damp squib’. The event as now arranged is a far cry from what was implied at the start, namely an inquiry along the lines of a Parliamentary Select Committee. The intention was that senior representatives of the relevant agencies would give evidence, answer questions and be held to account and the proceedings would be held in public. That is the expectation of the residents of Langworth in my ward, one of the areas worst affected by last summer’s floods.Cllr. Bernard Theobald, Conservative Group Leader said:
We were told that the jury would be given intensive training beforehand so that they would be fully briefed and knowledgeable on the day. It now turns out that the Citizens’ Jury will meet for the first time on the day of the event and the only briefing they have received is contained on 3 sides of A4 paper. I question how rigorous and well informed the Jury can be.”
“The Liberal Democrats have decided that the inquiry into recent Flooding in West Lindsey – that was supposed to be an opportunity for the public to attend and see the Water Authorities and other agencies being cross examined as to the cause of why so many of them were flooded out of their homes is to be held in all but secret.Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, said:
“Members of the public and Conservative Councillors who wished to go to the meeting to listen to what was being said have been told they are not allowed to attend. The reason given changes on a daily basis: first it was insufficient space in the New Guildhall, then it was that observers would detract from the objective of the Jury, now we are told that it would turn into a public meeting. The Liberal Democrats have turned the Flood Inquiry into a sham and a farce and the residents of West Lindsey who are footing the bill are being treated with contempt.”
“There are also questions to be asked as to why those people who are on the list of select ‘invitees’ have been promised £50 cash, in a ‘brown envelope’, if they turn up on the day.”
"It really is a poor approach to take; numerous residents in Nettleham were affected by the flooding last summer and with the current rain the Beck is again swollen, and home-owners are on 'standby'."Nettleham Green was badly flooded in the summer of 2007