A Tale of Two Meetings

Last night the District Council had two meeting, the first was the normal monthly Development Control Meeting whilst the second was an Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council which, according to the Public Agenda was

To consider the exempt report of the Director relating to a forthcoming planning appeal.

The first meeting was fairly standard with three items on it, although some of us argued that the third item was not actually mentioned on the Agenda our protests was overruled.  The three items were dealt with as discussed in the next post on this blog.

The Second meeting was much more eventful, possibly unprecedented, Certainly when I asked Cllr Chris Black if he had experienced anything like it in his 31 years as a councillor he told me “no”.

The meeting was in secret as it contained “Exempt” information, or information which should not be in the public domain due to its sensitive nature.  This can be legitimate, although I felt that much of it could have easily be held in public.

When we came to the motion to exclude the press and members of the public Cllr Cutmore seconded by Cllr Hudson put forward a motion to agree this.  The Chairman (Cllr Mrs Glynn) then tried  to read the exclusion order but was prevented by Cllr Black who wished to speak to the motion.

Cllr Black made some very good points, including the statement that perhaps only 10% of the discussion needed to be in private whist the rest could easily be held in public.  On a vote it was carried that the press and Public be excluded, Most opposition Councillors voted against this with the exception of Cllr Gibson (Lab) and Cllr Gordon (Ind).  Most opposition members also requested that their name be recorded as voting against.

At this point however, rather than leave the Public remained in the Chamber, when they refused to leave the Chairman took it upon themselves to adjourn the meeting for 20 minutes to allow the chamber to clear.  She then ordered Councillors upstairs, although the opposition (with the exception of Cllr Gibson and Cllr Gordon) remained along with one Tory.

We now expected the Chamber to be formally cleared (usually the police would attend the peaceful protest and people would then leave) however nothing happened and the 20 minutes turned into 40.  Cllr then began querying the process with officers, as the Chairman hadn’t returned to extend the meeting had it been abandoned, why weren’t officers asking people to leave etc?  Officers relayed messages up and down the stairs but no answer came back beyond the meeting would not be held until the Chamber was cleared, however with no Officer prepared to ask people to leave nothing changed.

Eventually four Officers did come down to the Chamber and explained the situation, but at that point we had to leave (this was about 10.40pm) as our child minder had to go and one of the children had been ill.  We understand that about 10 minutes after we left the Chamber had cleared (due to the Officers asking them to leave) and the meeting then commenced.  However Both myself and Cllr Mrs Hoy were unable to take part or vote because of the refusal or inability of Officers to clear the Chamber earlier.

I must emphasise that the protest was peaceful and friendly (although a couple of people did have raised voices) throughout and posed no threat, they would have moved if asked but no Officer did so for around an hour and a half, when I understand the public peacefully left the building.

As to what happened in the meeting, I do not know, and if I did know I couldn’t tell you.


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