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If there are no members of the public or press present at the point at which a council agenda indicates specified matters are expected to be discussed in confidential session, does it matter if the Council does not resolve (in the absence of anyone present other than Councillors or staff) to to exclude the public and press? Does failure to resolve to go into confidential session by excluding public and press have any bearing on whether members council or staff can then freely and openly share details, notes or recordings of discussions where the Council hasn't resolved to go into confidential session; and in effect would those discussions be deemed to have been held public session even if only councillors and staff were present?

by (720 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
I'm sure there are some that would argue that by not resolving to go into confidential session then the discussion isn't confidential but be aware that if the reason why the session was considered to be confidential to the extent that a resolution was originally indicated, that reason might still be appropriate.  Personal details about an individual, staff salary details, commercially sensitive information could still be exactly that and divulging that information could be in breach of data protection or similar.
by (19.1k points)
Unusually, I wouldn't argue one way or the other, all I would say is, it gives the impression of being lazy to not follow correct procedure and it opens opportunities for later difficulty.

If there is a genuine need for closed session, and it is known in advance, and it is listed on the agenda, why would it make any sense not to just have a quick vote to accomplish that?

In the absence of doing so, a member of public 'could' walk in half way through (I know, unlikely - but possible) or staff or Cllr may inadvertently (or intentionally) disclose confidential details.  If they did, there could be some mitigation for breaching confidentiality if the council itself didn't bother to follow correct procedure.  Then of course there is the matter of the minutes - the discussion cannot be classified as confidential if the session wasn't confidential so the minutes should be the same as for the rest of the meeting - this could prove awkward.

So in summary, I can think of no overriding reason NOT to do what was already stipulated where to do so would literally take seconds and to not do so opens up a whole raft of opportunity for difficulty downstream.

All of that said - I am no great advocate of confidential sessions.
Agree with DW's & RAC's assessment. I would just add there are times when a Cllr will learn confidential information in variety of platforms outside of formal meetings. There is a clear expectation enshrined in policy & indeed relevant legislation surrounding confidentiality. Can a Cllr reasonably argue they were not aware information was confidential when all the papers (including agenda itself) marked as confidential. Now if you forget to exclude press & public and they sat there quite hapilly (like I was once) I saw it all.. and to be blunt they had no grounds to exclude even if they had planned to.. As mere individual despite there commical efforts I was not going to stay quiet of what I had seen with my own eyes and notes.

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