Follow us on Twitter

Confidential Agenda Item

0 votes
Advice please. This Confidential Agenda Item is included in our next Council Meeting.  The Auditor has expressed concern about the number of confidential items.  As it is only to authorise a payment would it meet the criteria required for the exclusion of the press and the public?

Thank you in anticipation.

21. Pursuant to section 1(2) of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 it is resolved that, because of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted, the public and press leave during the consideration of the following items on this agenda

22. To authorise payment on account to Thomson & Bancks in respect of an ongoing legal matter.
asked by (420 points)

2 Answers

+1 vote
Not 100% sure, but as public funds are being used to pay for the ongoing legal matter (even if the public do not need to know what the legal matter is) then agreeing the amount should be public.  Even in your item 22, they will know that the payment is to Thomson & Bancks in respect of an ongoing legal matter, but is there a genuine reason not to be honest about the cost is, especially as it will have to be shown in your 2019/20 end of year budget, so will then become public

If you dont at least tell them the amount how will they have confidence in what is being spent on their behalf
answered by (930 points)
+1 vote
As Down_here has said, you've already published far more information than is normal for a confidential item.  The Transparency Code requires you to publish a list of all items of expenditure over £100, so assuming your legal bill is over £100 (are they ever less?!) you'll be publishing it before July anyway.  I'd include it in the list of payments to be authorised at the next meeting and only use the confidentiality process if there is associated information to be discussed that shouldn't be aired in public.
answered by (17.4k points)
Thank you, that is very helpful. We are a larger Council so payments over £500 are published quarterly (used to be monthly). Our legal bills are rarely under £500.
I have received this reply; Due to the amount involved, the expenditure needs to be approved by Full Council - this is the process in authorising the expenditure, not the actual payment on a payments list.

The item is in confidential session as there will be discussion around the ongoing legal advice.  For this reason the item has to be in confidential session.
I agree that the discussion of legal advice should normally be a confidential item, but the agenda item you quoted was to authorise a payment. This normally happens when a bill is received and a payment is being made. It seems meaningless to authorise a potential future part payment of a bill, without regard to the total bill.

The original decision to engage the solicitor should have been accompanied by a total fees estimate to enable members to consider whether this was the best option for the council. Was consideration given to the use of the insurance company's legal team if this matter falls within their remit? It is not uncommon for councils to rush to the office of a local general solicitor in such a case, without realising that they have free access to local government specialist solicitors through their insurance policies. Coincidentally, I'm trying to unscramble such a case at the moment, where a four-figure sum of money has been wasted by a modest-sized parish council.

Welcome to Town & Parish Councillor Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community. All genuine questions and answers are welcome. Follow us on Twitter to see the latest questions as they are asked - click on the image button above or follow @TownCouncilQA. Posts from new members may be delayed as we are unfortunately obliged to check each one for spam. Spammers will be blacklisted.

You may find the following links useful:

We have a privacy policy and a cookie policy.

Google Analytics Alternative