Wednesday 12 June 2013

Sticking to the Agenda

After the mind numbing tedium of May's fancy dress AGM, Carmarthenshire County Council was back to business as usual with a sickening car crash of a meeting. How the powers that be in County Hall must regret allowing the cameras in.

Cneifiwr unfortunately missed the first part of today's meeting, and so a full report will have to wait until the archived version becomes available. Given what happened today it is likely that a lot of legal midnight oil will be burned before that goes up on the council's website.

As with the May AGM, the technical quality and online tools were excellent, with one important exception.

On a number of occasions during the last year opposition councillors have managed to navigate their way through the Kafka-esque rules to table a motion (on one occasion the Chief Executive ruled a motion invalid because it was not dated, even though the rules state that he is responsible for noting the time and date on which they are submitted).

Invariably, the governing Labour-Independent coalition responds by submitting a wrecking amendment, which then gets voted through to become the substantive motion.

The agenda is published several days ahead of the actual meeting, and so the public can see the opposition motion. For reasons known only to the top brass in County Hall, the text of any amendments is not published, and the net effect is that any members of the public expecting to hear a debate on the published motion, find instead that they are listening to a debate about an amendment that they cannot read.

Under the rules there is more than enough time for the council's systems to be updated to show the proposed amendments, but they never are.

Bearing in mind that the Chief Executive and the council's Head of Law make a huge amount of fuss about not deviating from the agenda because, they claim, members of the public expecting to hear a discussion of X may be upset, and even have recourse to legal action if they are subjected to something not on the agenda, this cavalier approach to the council's obligations under the 1972 Local Government Act is perplexing.

For those not familiar with the wording of this sacred text, the Act makes it plain that information should be made available by councils to the public before it is discussed in a public meeting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

amendments aren't published because they are tabled 24 hours before the meeting: by 10am on the day before. That's why they don't provide a copy online. maybe they could sharpen up a biit, but i don't think it's done to hide it from the public. The amendment is read out and published in the minutes.