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Can Councillors be barred from observing a sub- Committee meeting?

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We have a "Personnel Committee" which is a subcommittee of our Finance & Staffing Committee.  As the name implies the Personnel Committee's remit is to make recommendations on staffing matters and to resolve any staffing issues.  The Personnel Committee has no budget of its own.  Any recommendations have to be approved by the Finance & Staffing Committee.

We have recently been advised that Councillors who are not members of the "Personnel Committee" are not allowed to observe the discussions and decisions made by the Committee.  Is this correct?  Some of us were not aware of this ruling and observed the last meeting of the Committee.  One item on the Committee's agenda was outside the remit of the Committee and basically allowed Councillors on the Committee to criticise a report by other Councillors in front of our staff without the authors of the report being given a right of reply.  We have complained about this to the Chair of the meeting and to the Chair of the Council but so far we've not had any response.  We've been told that we must forget what we heard said at the Committee meeting - possibly implying that we can't complain about what we heard!

What comments do people have?  How can we ensure that the Personnel Committee does not stray outside its remit if we're not allowed to observe the Committee's meetings?
asked by (1.1k points)

1 Answer

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There are quite strong constraints on privacy by councils and their committees and subcommittees. All formal meetings (and decisions can only be made at formal meetings) must be open to the public. Councillors who are not members of the relevant (sub)committee count as public for this purpose and are therefore entitled to attend. The public can be excluded if a specific resolution to this effect is proposed and agreed by vote. This would included councillors who are not members of the (sub)committee. The resolution to exclude must give a reason (in general terms) such as the need to avoid a breach of confidence or discussion of personal staffing matters. The public should not be excluded unless it is necessary.

In addition, all meetings must publish an agenda, which at least gives a clear outline of each matter to be decided. Decisions must be minuted (even in cases where the public has been excluded) and citizens (including councillors) have a statutory right to inspect minutes. It is never lawful to keep decisions secret.
There's not much that can be done to control what is said while a committee has excluded the public if it does not appear in the agenda or the minutes.
answered by (28.1k points)

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