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At a recent parish council meeting the public were excluded from the meeting when a letter from a parishioner was to be discussed. The letter was questioning the integrity, objectivity and transparency of the Parish Council's co option decision and  procedure.  It had been brought up to highlight to the public that a recent co-option did not appear to have been made in the public interest. The reason given for excluding the public was that it wasnt fair to the councillor co-opted, nor to the person who wrote the letter. Is the clerk allowed to do this?
by (390 points)

3 Answers

0 votes

There are only a few reasons as to why, legally, the public and press can be excluded from a meeting.  The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 Sec 1 (2) states "A body may, by resolution, exclude the public from a meeting (whether during the whole or part of the proceedings) whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings; and where such a resolution is passed, this Act shall not require the meeting to be open to the public during proceedings to which the resolution applies."

It is generally considered acceptable to exclude the press and public if the agenda item relates to the consideration of tenders, leases, purchases of assets, for matters relating to staffing covered by the data Protection Act and to consider complaints against the council or a code of conduct complaint.

I would suggest that the matter you are referring to is a complaint against the council and they are therefore able to close the meeting to discuss their next steps, whether they need to seek legal advice or to agree a defence.

by (24.6k points)
0 votes
The public and press can be excluded from agenda items if items for discussion  are either confidential or exempt as defined in Schedule 12 of the Local Gov Act 1972.

A resolution should have been passed by full Council to prove the exclusion.
by (35.5k points)
Thank you for the replies. As it happens, the topic wasn't discussed as the meeting went on over time, and so I imagine it will be (or should be) on the agenda for the next meeting. In which case I can be prepared if I know what the rules are. Does the resolution to prove the exclusion have to be passed by all members or a majority?
As with other resolutions it must be by a majority, the chair may have a casting vote.
0 votes
Incidentally, there is no legislation as to how a parish council is to co-opt, the procedure is up to the parish council.  Indeed, a councillor could ask a mate in the pub to stand and they would be considered co-opted (once they had signed the acceptance of office declaration and submitted their register of interests).

Also, it is not the business of the clerk to close the meeting - that should have been undertaken by the council resolving to close the meeting after receiving advice from the clerk...
by (24.6k points)
What happens if a member of the public contests the reasons given and refuses to leave. ?
If the meeting has been closed to the public for a genuine legal reason, then the meeting would have to be suspended or closed instead.  If the member of the public was disturbing the meeting to such an extent, the police could be called.

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