Responding to both the Conservative and Labour groups uniting to defeat a motion that would have taken steps towards addressing the worrying increase of Fake News being injected into Council meetings by some elected members.
Cllr David Hancock, Deputy Leader of the N-E Derbyshire Liberal Democrats group said: “Increasingly, since the May elections we’ve instances of elected members misrepresenting other councillors in the Chamber. NEDDC’s constitution doesn’t allow for a councillor to correct an untrue statement made about them during the course of a meeting, once they’ve already spoken.
“In recent months certain members have routinely made misleading and inaccurate statements about other councillors and political groups during the course of a meeting, with no constitutional right for those defamed to challenge or correct falsehoods.”
The Liberal Democrat motion put before full Council on 11 November 2019, sought to amend the constitution to enable any councillor who had been falsely represented to challenge and counter any comments made against them by another councillor.
Cllr Hancock continued, “It’s nothing more than what would be good practice and common decency in any other walk of life.”
However, the Conservative and Labour groups voted against the motion; which reads as follows:
The wording of rule 12.13 – Personal Explanation in the Council’s Constitution, that there is no provision within the Constitution for Members to correct misleading or untrue statements made about them during the course of a meeting.
That this lack of provision, however unintentionally, enables misrepresentation of elected Members in Council and adversely impacts on public perception of their elected representatives.
That rule 12.13 be amended to:- A Councillor may make a personal explanation at any time. A personal explanation shall relate to some material part of any comment made during debate, which:-
(a) may have been made by the Member and appear to have been misunderstood in the present date.
(b) to correct any misleading or untrue statement made by any other Member during the present debate. The ruling of the Chair of the Council on the admissibility of a personal explanation will be final.
“The result speaks for itself,” Cllr Hancock said. “Any councillor who needs to misrepresent others rather than standing or falling on the strength of their own policies really has no business representing the residents of North East Derbyshire.
“Their actions reflect badly on both themselves and the Council as a whole – especially in these days where the public has lost so much faith in their elected politicians. The communities of North East Derbyshire deserve better than the lies the Conservatives and Labour are happy to allow in the Council chamber.”
In recent weeks, NEDDC’s council meetings have come under criticism for, what one complainant called, being like “a playground or a zoo”.
“Today Councillors had the opportunity to acknowledge that improvements are needed and to take steps towards addressing them,” Cllr Hancock explained.
“They failed. The Tories and Labour are too entrenched in their historic Punch and Judy show, where no one really cares whether something is accurate or not, as long as the can try and score points rather than working together with other parties, and independents, to get the jobs that need doing done.”