I HAVE become somewhat concerned about the state of local democracy following two recent reports in the Echo generated by Dorset Council.

The first was on the 6th May under the headline 'Dorset Council decision to use hotel Rembrandt for patients instead of community hospital criticised'. I will leave aside that element of the debate for others. My concern centres on the reported remarks of the council leader, and I highlight just one; he is reported as saying the issue, 'is beyond the scope of the authority'. This reported comment raises the issue of democratic accountability not least because in the same report we learn the council has spent £590,000. In 12 weeks on the project. In due course the accounts of the authority should reveal the source of the income to meet that expenditure and one would presume some detail as to the actual payments made. That expenditure alone must surly place the whole issue within the scope of the authority.

I now turn to the report in the Echo on the 9th May under the headline 'Dorset Council suspends democracy until Autumn due to technical difficulties'.

From this report we learn the council's annual meeting in May has been cancelled. The meeting scheduled for June 11th will be a reduced meeting dealing only with procedural matters, and it will not be open to all councillors. This raises several questions.

1. Who are the councillors invited to attend.?

2. Who decided which councillors would be invited?

3. Which communities will not be represented at the meeting?

4. How will the documents be made available to the public for that meeting?

There may be others.

We also learn that thereafter matters will be dealt with by a cabinet consisting of just 10 out of the 82 elected members.

There is a public health crisis, and of course money will have to be spent and quick decisions made. Equally as a public body Dorset Council is democratically accountable for both their actions and the expenditure they incur.

Whatever view one may take on it the work force at large is being actively encouraged to return to work, it follows that one should actively encourage an end to the suspension of local democracy. Any thing less would be unwise in a society which considers itself to be a free democratic society.

Hon Alderman Revd. Brian Ellis