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0 votes
can a councillor be excluded from committee meetings that the public are excluded from just because they are not a member of that committee?
by (240 points)

3 Answers

+1 vote
The rules are the same for councillors who are not members of the committee as members of the public.  They have the right to attend but not to speak.  If there was an item for closed session, they would have to leave, as would the members of the public.

The only exception is where councils approve in standing orders that the chair is an ex-officio member of all council committees.  Then the chair has the right to attend closed sessions too.
by (24.5k points)
Which legislation stipulates this? The chair does not have elevated powers and rights over any other councillor except for the duty to chair full council meetings and unilaterally call an extraordinary meeting or EGM.
A councillor is not a member of the public and in this context I think the guidance indicates in what capacity a non committee member can participate. The committee would have to resolve to exclude it's own members, and would leave itself open to charges of having something to hide.
As I state, councils can add it to their Standing Orders that Chairs are ex-officio members of all the committees.  I didn't refer to legislation on that matter.

With regards to the access to information by all the councillors, I have answered this below.
+1 vote
No, and I don't think they can be excluded from a committee meeting where the press and public are lawfully excluded either. Although they may not be a member of a particular committee they are still a member of the council and responsible for its decisions and conduct and should ultimately hear about them at full council.
by (35.4k points)
The NALC Legal Topic Note 5 does state that councillors who are not elected to the committee are to be treated as members of the public and I would therefore argue that they would also be required to leave if the committee meeting went into closed session:
"80  A member of the council who is not appointed to a committee may attend a committee meeting as a member of the public.  He would have no right to participate in the meeting unless a member of the public also has the same right..."
This would be a violation of The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which stipulates that all councillors should have access to all the information stored by their council. Information is bound to be shared and generated at a closed meeting, in particular the agenda papers which may contain confidential or exempt information.
This is guidance that NALC publishes, I am not making it up.  If you read further in the Regulations you mention, then these Regulations restrict access for inspection to items listed in the 1972 Local Government Act, Schedule 12A.  There are strict reasons for closing meetings and these mirror the list of documents identified in Schedule 12A namely information:
1. relating to an individual
2. that can identify an individual
3. relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
4.  relating to employment matters
5.  relating to legal proceedings
And section 16 of the Regulations specifically refers to members of Local Authorities and not members of the public.  Therefore, if the committee went into closed session for the very restricted reasons involving the above information, the councillor who is not a member would have to leave the meeting.
Incidentally, the Regulations that you are quoting are for the following local authorities and not town or parish council level
"local authority” means a county council in England, a district council or a London borough council which is operating executive arrangements in accordance with Part 1A of the 2000 Act;"
Genuinely, thank you for giving me the encouragement to look this up as I was unaware of these regulations but now I know why...  many thanks (sincerely meant)
NALC legal topic note 1 article 25.
Sometimes councillors wish to attend meetings of committees (or sub-committees) to which they have not been appointed. This is a perfectly legitimate practice as councillors have the same rights to attend committee (or sub-committee) meetings as members of the public. However, where councillors attend meetings of committees (or sub-committees) to which they have not been appointed, they will not enjoy all the rights they enjoy as councillors. They will not have a right to participate in the meeting unless the meeting includes a public participation session".  This implies they will enjoy some of the rights they have as cllrs , one of which I contend is the right to be present at all Council meetings. Being subject to exclusion is debatable as amounting to a  "right" for any councillor.
This is where we disagree.  A councillor who is not appointed to a committee has the same rights of attendance as a member of the public.  They are either treated as a councillor (if they are appointed to the committee) or as a member of the public.  If the meeting goes into closed session, then the councillor (not appointed to the committee) and members of the public must leave the meeting.  There is no middle ground - the status is either as councillor appointed to the committee or MOP and this is clearly stated in the quote that you provided from NALC legal topic note 1...
0 votes
I can attend all minus Personell Committee (but can't vote) and I can also, technically, have access to all the reports although the Council here has placed members on committees before agreeing the Terms of Reference of the Committees  - don't even ask!
by (4.6k points)

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