As the issue rockets in terms of public interest, both locally and nationally, I have asked EDDC’s overview and scrutiny chair, Tim Wood, for an item to be included on an overview and scrutiny committee agenda, in the near future.
The debate might involve some uncomfortable discussions but I am convinced that EDDC needs to address this issue and draw up guidelines on what is acceptable, and unacceptable forms of lobbying. Not only that, but there also needs to be some kind of publicly available register for councillors to sign up to, if they have been lobbied by individuals looking to influence a council decision, especially if this involves a financial interest.
Of course, lobbying SHOULD be overt, but what happens when it isn’t? How much lobbying has anyone seen taking place in the public domain? By its very nature, lobbying tends to be conducted in private, in meetings or via the phone – and this is what, I think, EDDC needs to draw up guidelines to address.
And what is lobbying anyway?
House of Commons 2009 report, Lobbying: Access and influence in Whitehall – states: “Lobbying should be – and often is – a force for good. But there is a genuine issue of concern, widely shared and reflected in measure of public trust, that there is an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield priviledged access and disproportionate influence.”
I have not yet had a response from Cllr Wood to my email, but I hope to hear from him soon.
Here’s the collection of lobbying blog-posts from Sidmouth’s Vision Group – http://futuresforumvgs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/lobbying_24.html