Transparency?

Followers of the soap opera that’s Thurrock Council will be aware of the issues they’ve had with questionable investment strategies designed to boost their finances but which instead, could lead to the loss of £200 million as the investments haven’t delivered on their promise. The investments in question were in a green energy scheme backed by one Liam Kavanagh. Here’s a detailed report on Kavanagh’s dealings: His companies made a deal for £138m of taxpayers’ money. Where has it gone? – Gareth Davies, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism 15.7.22.

This is the take on the situation from Neil Speight of Thurrock Nub News: Council damned over lost £200m and its links with questionable financial advisor as national spotlight turns on its failings. Call for government probe into ‘huge scandal’ 15.7.22.

Reading the above two articles reveals a picture of poor judgement by senior officers and ruling group councillors at Thurrock Council, a failure to hold those officers to account, a lack of transparency and accountability to the residents who they’re supposed to be serving and most worryingly of all, an obstructive attitude towards any journalists doing their best to hold them to account. Both Gareth Davies of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Neil Speight of Thurrock Nub News have experienced a lot of difficulty in trying to unearth the truth of what’s been done with our money.

When it comes to dealing with mistakes and failures, Thurrock Council always adopt the approach of circling the wagons as opposed to being honest with their residents and giving the local media a full explanation. Any local journalist who tries to dig deep into what the council are up to finds the shutters coming down pretty fast as Neil Speight has found out to his cost.

We’ve said this many times before and are doomed to having to say it again – when a local authority treats local journalists and residents with contempt, it should be raising questions. One being, what is the purpose of a local authority? In an ideal world, they should be there to serve the interests of their residents. In an ideal world, elected councillors and full time officers are supposed to be the servants of the residents who pay their expenses and salaries.

You don’t need us to tell you that we live in a deeply flawed world and that the reality of what local authorities do is a long way from the ideals articulated above. It has reached a point where local governance is so far gone, it’s beyond reform and needs a total rethink.

When it comes to journalists doing their job of calling truth to power and finding themselves obstructed and worse by local authorities scrabbling to avoid scrutiny, it’s not just a Thurrock Council issue. Okay, with the comments we’ve made in various incarnations, it may appear that we think Thurrock Council are the absolute worst but when we start to look around, it’s something that’s common to many local authorities.

With our impending location to neat Bristol, we’ve started to pay attention to how local authorities in the region deal with journalists asking too many questions. Bristol City Council are definitely in the mix when it comes to giving local journalists a hard time: If you fight for freedom, you can’t rest, and you will be attacked – Joanna Booth 17.7.22.

So, when we do move to the other side of the country, it will be a case of a different location but the same old shite!

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