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PC Voting Rules

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If Councillors decide to take a vote on an issue, eg planning application, are councillors entitled to ask interested parties to leave the room during the vote.

Following that should the minutes of the meeting record the result eg 4 to 2 in favour and record how each councillor voted?

Thank you.
asked by (120 points)

1 Answer

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In general, no.  The public can only be excluded if a specific and genuine reason can be found for why it would be in the public interest to do so.  This cannot be applied to specific people, but only to the public in general, and it requires a specific resolution to be passed on each occasion when the public are excluded.  Normally, this power is applied only to circumstances such as discussion of confidential matters to do with employees, contracts or legal disputes where there is a plain justification for secrecy in the public interest.

Normally individual votes are not recorded.  But the legislation provides for any councillor to request that all the votes be recorded in detail - standing orders may require this power to be exercised before the meeting has passed on to the next item.  By logical extension, the power is often taken to give councillors the right to ask for their own votes to be recorded (if they do not particularly wish to have all the votes recorded).
answered by (29.8k points)
Thank you counterpoint.  

That said then at the next meeting when the minutes of the last meeting are read and matters arising - would it be improper to request that as we were sent out of the meeting during the vote, we would like to know how each councillor voted?     We would anticipate that this request would be refused and if it is would this be in breach of standing orders?  

This assumes the PC has adopted Standing Orders.
OK, I guess you are the subject of exclusion rather than a councillor!  Unfortunately for you, only council members have the legal right to ask for votes to be recorded in the minutes.  If no councillor made such a request, then the voting will not be in the minutes and there is no right to insist that it should be added.  The point at which you could have put up a fight is now passed - the actual exclusion.  Councils must meet in public by virtue of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.  Exceptions must, as stated above, be made by a specific resolution that names the reason for the exclusion.  If that process was not followed correctly, you could challenge the decision of the council, but you may face an uphill struggle.
Thank you again for the info.    

The issue in question concerns a planning application submitted to the LPA which was sent on to PC for comments in the usual way.  

At the meeting attending members of the public included the 2 applicants and 2 objectors to the planning application. After listening to both sides the chairman decided the councillors should take a vote and asked the interested parties to leave the meeting.  

Would this count as valid matter to remove public during the vote?  (Other public were not requested to leave, which if a resolution was passed, which it wasn't, they should have).  It was so that the interested parties wouldn't know which way councillors voted.  I would not think this a confidential matter.  

Realistically I would have considered it of parishioners interest to know how individual councillors vote - otherwise how would the public know who to vote for at the elections.
My comments must be qualified by saying that I am not a professional adviser, but only giving a view to the best of my knowledge.  The procedure followed does not seem to be valid because the right to exclude the public cannot be exercised selectively, and must be done by means of a specific resolution that gives a reason for the exclusion.

There is a possible loophole that would need you to check the council's standing orders.  Voting must be by show of hands unless the standing orders provide otherwise.  If the standing orders allow the council to opt for a secret ballot, then the council could have avoided making public how the votes were cast.

The problem with pursuing the matter very far is that it is quite possible that any adjudication might say that the procedure followed was incorrect but that there is no evidence that it affected the decision.

In general, it is quite difficult for local councils to make decisions that they know will be badly received by applicants who are necessarily local.  In an ideal world, councillors decide the matter in an impartial way and applicants accept the decision with good grace.  But things don't always work so well, so from a distance, I have some sympathy with both sides!

A separate point for you to keep in mind is that the parish council is only making a recommendation, and its recommendation will only be taken account of to the extent that it raises matters that involve valid planning considerations.  Mere opinion is not relevant.  The planning authority has to make a decision based strictly on the planning considerations, and can only take into account the parish council's view to the extent that it is relevant.  And even then, the planning authority can (and regularly does) decide against the parish council.  Your main aim has to be to persuade the planning authority of the virtues of your application, using relevant planning arguments.
thank you again.

It so happens that the pc voted in our favour and LPA matched the decision.  

We are only concerned that the councillors actually follow the proper procedures - and excluding public from witnessing a planning vote did not seem valid.   We understand why they probably wanted to be private so as to not upset either side - and its too late now for the individual votes to be recorded.  

After the meeting we were informed that we were not to be told how concillors voted, just the outcome of for or against.  Which of course wasn't correct either as we shouldnt have been excluded so would have known.   Oh well.

I expect they could tell us if they have a mind to do so at the next meeting if we ask.  

Knowing the preferences of councillors allows an informed decision at the next elections.

Thank you again.

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