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Exclusion of the public from discussions of all complaints concerning the council’s administration and procedures?

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A resident has made complaints about the council’s administration and procedures.  It states above the relevant agenda item, that under section 1 (2) of the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 the following item may be exempt from the press and public and members must vote whether to exclude the public from the discussion.  It also states that advice from the NALC County Association is that ALL complaints will be in closed session, although any decisions should be minuted. This is the only reason given for excluding the public.

The resident does not think that the discussion should be in closed session, and does not think that it would be in the public interest for it to take place in closed session.

Although from 1 March 2006, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 was amended to take account of the impact of the Freedom of Information Act 2000,  I cannot see any good reason why the public should be excluded.  Any personal details could be redacted.


From reading similar previous Q&As I see that advice from NALC County Associations is not always correct, and I would appreciate your thoughts about whether it is correct on this occasion and whether ALL complaints of this nature should be held in closed session?

by (750 points)

1 Answer

0 votes
The Council appear to have decreed that the information is exempt, but it needs to comply with what is regarded as exempt as shown here http://committee.worcester.gov.uk/documents/s41451/03%20Categories%20of%20Exempt%20information%20March%202018.pdf
by (31.1k points)
edited by
Thank you.  I had found something similar here... http://www.rochdale.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-committees/more-about-councillors/Pages/exclusion-of-press-and-public.aspx

It also explains the public interest test, which I don't think has been met. The council still have to vote to exclude the public, but they are being told that advice from the NALC County Association is that the public should always be excluded from discussions around complaints about the council's administration and procedure.  I could understand it if it was a complaint about a councillor under the Code of Conduct, but not when it is about administration and procedures and the council's interpretations of these.
With no information about the complaint or size or structure of your council, I would suggest caution here.  If the complaint boils down to a complaint about staff members (or a staff member) it should be in a confidential session as it could amount to a disciplinary hearing in public.  It's difficult to redact personal information from a verbal discussion.
A combination of weak management and secrecy create a climate where quite serious complaints can get covered up
Unless the Law has been broken there’s not a lot you can do
As usual the solution is change your Councillors
Members of the public can also be excluded if confidential items are discussed, but it appears that the clerk used exempt items as the reason for exclusion.
Thank you all for the advice. The only reason given for exclusion, is that the advice from the NALC County Association is that “ALL complaints will be in closed session”.  Firstly, that sounds like bad advice, and secondly it sounds like a bad reason.  I would expect decisions for exclusions to be decided on their merits, and I would expect the reason for exclusion to be taken from the list in schedule 12a.
Following on from above....the complaint about the council’s policies and procedures was due to be discussed at the end of a recent meeting.  The Council passed a resolution to exclude the public .  the reason given was that the county Association of Local Councils has advised a blanket ban on listening to any complaint in public.  The public left. Almost immediately the meeting ran out of time and the members left.
Question 1: Will this resolution still stand for the next meeting when the council discusses it, or will they have to pass another resolution?
Question 2:  The Clerk has told the complainant (who emailed to explain that a better reason for exclusion was needed) that no more correspondence would be entered into until the complaint had been dealt with.  Does that mean that if the complainant writes to the council in the meantime, the letter will be ignored?

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