We are all living through challenging times, and local councils face massive challenges with the extra demands on their services.
However, Bromley Council is no different to any other local council and there is no reason why Bromley's performance should be worse than others. They are performing particularly poorly with the lack of information coming out of the council and an inability to hold councillors to account. Key decisions are made behind closed doors. We have concerns about some particularly acute issues including reopening of schools in June and the provision for social distancing for cyclists and pedestrians - but there is no opportunity to ask questions as no full council meetings are scheduled before 20 July - and there is no guarantee about accessibility to that meeting.
Some committee meetings are taking place online where "decisions are necessary" however the council website has often been rather opaque as to when these actually are. Various powers have been given to executive and the Leader, Cllr Colin Smith to take decisions by decree. There is a shocking lack of information on what these may be, and it is practically impossible for residents to ask questions about the operation of council's activities. Julie Ireland, Lib Dem Campaigner said "There is a lot of anxiety about several key issues, including preparation for children returning to school on 1 June, adjustments to our roads and pavement to allow pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distance, payment of grants to local businesses, concern about the lack of recycling opportunities and the increase in bonfires, and more."
Concerned residents have been told to "contact councillors direct with questions or comments at any time". However many have reported to us that they do not get responses. One resident told us that on 5 occasions she tried to get answers from a councillor and 5 times received no response.
In Liberal Democrat controlled Richmond the story is very different. All council meetings are broadcast live online, with webex or a live webcast and members of the public may speak or ask questions during the meetings.
Bromley Lib Dems have a proud history of holding the council to account asking questions on behalf of residents who community groups who are struggling to be heard. We cannot accept a situation - however temporary - where there is such a lack of information controlled by a leader operating by decree. As champions of accountability and local democracy, we have been challenging this and will continue to do so. This will involve us continuing to press for information on behalf of residents and writing further letters to the council and councillors.