Huge argument at Pendle reunion after debates hidden from public
Decisions to move 13 points from public discussion to private discussion at a Pendle Borough Council committee meeting last month were illegal, unwarranted and unethical of open democracy, it has been argued.
The conduct of the Borough’s West Craven Committee on November 2 was discussed at the last Pendle Borough Council plenary meeting on Thursday, December 9.
At the committee meeting in November, Conservative advisers voted to move 13 points from public discussion to private discussion.
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At this month’s Borough Council plenary meeting, Lib-Dem council David Whipp called for a debate on the decisions of the West Craven committee chair and other Conservative councilors.
The full board debate included broader questions about the attitude of all councilors towards openness at meetings. He also asked why the borough council no longer provides official video coverage of the meetings since the lockdown era.
It also arguably raises questions about whether councilors and council officers are clear about the balance between public interest needs, land and property information, privacy, and land laws. data, as a video of the November West Craven committee meeting includes comments on the uncertainty.
Boards have the legal right to exclude certain items from meetings. This means that they can be discussed in private without the public or the press looking. Exempt items generally cover matters relating to sensitive financial, contractual or personal information. Examples include financial quotes from contractors or suppliers bidding for consultancy work.
However, the items recommended for an exemption are usually stated in advance by council officers and noted on agenda reports prior to meetings. Councilors must formally vote to approve exemptions at the meeting itself.
At this month’s Borough Council plenary meeting, Councilor Whipp expressed his displeasure with the November 2 meeting in West Craven. His motion, drafted in the formal style of debate, included concerns and suggestions.
He said: “Council [all councillors] notes the continued failure of the Pendle board to live stream its board and core committee meetings.
“Council also notes the erosion of the rights of local representatives to raise issues of concern to residents in zone committees through the imposition of unnecessary barriers to getting agenda items, and the draconian actions of the government. Chairman of the West Craven Committee by curtailing debate and illegally excluding members of the public when matters of concern were to be discussed.
“The Board therefore decides that the principles of open and transparent governance, which have served this field well for many years, be reaffirmed and that live broadcasting resume, and that the highest standards be observed in committees and the Board.” . “
Councilor Whipp then added: “In 1980, the first resolution I ever supported in this council chamber was that the then planning subcommittee be open to the press and the public.
“I didn’t think that after fighting for openness and democracy, I would be here today to raise the issue of the West Craven Committee Chair, Councilor Rosemary Carroll. She acted illegally by excluding members of the public from discussions on 13 agenda items in November. When she said the items were exempt and the public should be excluded, they were real shoemakers.
“Councilor Carroll took 13 items and pushed them into the private portion of the meeting, when no one else could see what was going on. There was no legitimate reason. It was a shame.
“The councils up and down the country have become more responsible over the past 40 years. But here we have a backing board, wanting to sweep things under the rug and not being transparent. “
He added: “The West Craven committee meetings are being broadcast live on video by Councilor Tom Whipp, who sets up a video camera. He does this at other meetings as well. There’s hundreds of other people that can see what’s going on, and dare I say it, there’ll be a few that’ll watch the meeting tonight.
“Why doesn’t the ruling Pendle Borough Council administration continue to live stream the meetings, given that it has performed quite well during the pandemic?” There is no reason apart from the ruling group not to want people to see what is going on, ”he suggested.
However, Councilor Rosemary Carroll dismissed the allegations. At the November meeting, she said she understood that seven items on the meeting’s agenda should not be discussed in public. However, for the sake of simplicity, she wanted to bring various items together for private discussion later in the meeting and end at 9 p.m. But that led to a heated discussion and then a vote on the exempt items.
Speaking at the plenary council meeting, Councilor Carroll said, “When items are on the agenda, I have to be sure what they are. I must be sure that they will not reveal the identity of the individuals. At this particular meeting, there were no members of the public, other than the husband of a counselor. “
She added, “I’ve been a board member since the early 1990s. I didn’t hear David Whipp discussing anything. All he does is yell at people.
“Regarding his Candid Camera videos, if he’s so keen on democracy, then why is his camera only showing half of the councilors at the meeting?” He has a weird need to film himself. He’s like a kid who throws his toys out of the stroller because he can’t do what he wants. It is not at all about democracy. This is self-promotion for Councilor David Whipp.
Then Lib-Dem Councilor Tom Whipp spoke.
He said: “Thirteen items were excluded at the November meeting. None had a valid reason for exclusion. There were 12 people watching the live broadcast that night. You might not think virtual observation is real, but they were watching and listening. Videos can receive hundreds of views. Hundreds.
“Coun Carroll refers to ‘Candid Camera,’ but screenings of council meetings have become part of the course during the pandemic. People want to see meetings online. The public expects it. There aren’t any. of weird need.
“I do my best to show all the counselors to the meetings. The reason we’re not showing a side of the meetings is that an advisor has requested not to be videotaped. And we can’t put the whole committee in the camera’s field of view.
“The streaming of council meetings just stopped. I do not know why. But it’s really important that we maintain the integrity that people expect. If we are hiding behind closed doors, it is not good.
Lib-Dem Coun Dorothy Lord said: “I am quite appalled by Coun Carroll’s response. It’s a personal attack on David Whipp. It goes against the code of conduct. That the Conservatives applaud, it is appalling.
Labor council Mohammed Iqbal has asked the mayor to consider asking Council Carroll to apologize for his portrayal of the Whipp council. But the mayor, Councilor Neil Butterworth, said it was not for him to decide. There was a “legal way” for this.
Referring to the Carroll advice, the Iqbal advice then asserted, “His contempt for people is well known. I was amazed to see that 13 items were exempt. If I did that, there would be questions.
Regarding meeting videos, the Iqbal board added, “Other cash-strapped boards continue to broadcast their meetings and are proud of it. Yet the Pendle Borough Council does not. The Conservatives were caught off guard meeting after meeting. People see betrayal across the borough.
However, Tory Councilor Neil McGowan said a Facebook page was used to attack Tory Councilors following issues with the Colne Blues Festival. He wanted to know more about it and suggested that maybe an apology should come from Councilor David Whipp.
But Councilor Whipp said he was unsure why a Colne City Council issue had been brought into the debate.
On the current arrangements for unofficial videos of Pendle Borough Council meetings, Councilor Whipp added: [in venues]. We believe that the borough council should broadcast the meetings live. It’s not expensive and we can do it. It would attract ten times the number of people attending board meetings in person. How many people are in the public gallery tonight? Of them?”
Summing up, he said: “There was no legal justification for excluding these items at the West Craven committee meeting, but Councilor Carroll and Conservative Councilors voted in this direction. It was against the codes of the Local Government Association. We have lawyers here tonight. It would be a travesty if councilors voted on this motion tonight.
But Councilor Whipp’s motion was defeated, with 14 votes in favor and 15 against.
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