During an ordinary council meeting held a few days before the 23 March 2020 Covid lockdown came into force, our chairman introduced 'an emergency motion' for the council to approve a scheme of delegation under LGA72s101 'to consider extending the delegation of council decisions to the Clerk during any period of restricted activity declared by the Government in respect of the Covid-19 outbreak...to enable the council to fulfil its responsibilities to its residents'. The Clerk and nominated councillors would handle the routine executive items.
It was then resolved that 'in the interests of public health, for a period of four months with immediate effect the Proper Officer of the council (the Clerk) acting in consultation with the chairman and vice chairman shall have temporary delegated authority for expenditure up to £2,000 per item to enable the council to fulfil its responsibilities to its residents.'
This resolution was proposed by the chairman and seconded by the vice chairman.
No papertrail or documented explanation for this 'emergency item' was forthcoming to councillors or the public before the meeting
Our council successfully held all its ordinary and extraordinary and public meetings via Zoom from April 2020, and has certainly more than fulfilled its responsibilities to its residents during those meetings. At long last it has just resolved to remove the s101 imposition at its June 2021 meeting, by which time the Clerk, chairman and vice chairman acting between convened meetings have racked up a variety of major decisions, set up a number of projects and initiatives among themselves that have involved their spending public funds without any input from or documented explanations to the other councillors. The resultant non inconsiderable expenditure has not been ratified by the council at any next meeting. All the council's cheques, including those paid under s101, for the entire year have been signed and distributed outside meetings by the Clerk and vice chairman, even though another councillor is an authorised signatory. There has been no proper accountability and every time two councillors have raised their heads above the parapet to questioned the probity of, let alone need for the s101 imposition and requested that the s101 status be removed they have been vilified and their concerns rubbished. They appear to be the only councillors worried about the manner in which a swathe of last year's precepted monies has been administered in a manner which they consider to be undemocratic, controlling, cavalier and unaccountable. It has also been divisive as five out of the seven councillors are apparently considered to be inferior beings of little consequence, while the chairman and vice chairman have literally run the council with the Clerk outside of meetings leaving the rest of the council and their electors completely in the dark about their actions. Certainly the inferior councillors have not been kept informed or in the loop at any stage when it came to the transaction of council business being undertaken without proper debate, let alone fully informed decision-making following due process in an open, transparent public forum.
We are back to face-to-face meetings at long last. We have held two, but already there are murmurs, mutterings and moves to re-instate Zoom meetings as soon as possible which is of great concern as democracy is at risk. It doesn't take much to realise how dangerous it is to allow a small elite cabal of self-appointed decision-makers to slip back into their old comfortable roles as untouchable self-seekers who have positioned themselves very nicely thank-you as top dogs in order to control as much council business as possible with apparent impunity, without fear of their actions being subjected to any rigorous scrutiny, robust questioning, contradicting, exposing errors of omission or commission in an open forum, let alone being held to account by their electors, who don't appear to understand (or, sadly, care) what it going on behind the scenes.