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As per the title, would a decision arrived at by discussion and voting on a long running matter of a strong community interest be legal if the public were excluded from all of the ongoing discussion/voting process right upto and including the final decision.

Even though some councillors had appealed to the chair and clerk that the time was right to bring the matter into the public forum.

Plus a member of the public who noticed the agenda item reoccuring in the private session eventually, after about 4 months of it, enquired as to what was going on behind closed doors. After about another four meetings this person correctly guessed what it was and challenging the chair but was still dismissed by the chair against some of the councillors wishes, this being made known to the chair at the time while the public were still present.

There is no disclosure of personal information or idenity involved. The only reason for confidentiality is that the chair felt it unsafe, on a commercial basis, to make the matter public knowledge; which in mine and others opinion did seem to have had some merit at the outset but after the initial private session meetings, it became obvious that there would be no such risk. Nevertheless the public were still excluded right upto and including the final vote.
by (1.0k points)
edited by

1 Answer

+2 votes
Several approaches could be adopted here:

The qualification for excluding press and public is a matter of statute.
Cllr’s have to have a vote to exclude press and public - don’t vote for it. If the vote isn’t carried, it isn’t ‘proper.’

Raise a point of order and challenge the appropriateness
Ignore the fact that it has been held in closed session and publish a personal commentary to the public
Code of conduct implications - well the chair could be found to have transgressed - failure to provide information which someone is entitled to - or the councillor providing a public commentary might be challenged as breaching confidentiality BUT if the nature of the information is NOT actually ‘confidential’ then no breach would be found
In any case, a breach of CoC is meaningless thus, if you want the information to be in the public domain - put it there and front it out
I did EXACTLY this  PC went ‘confidential’ about failure to conduct timely legionella tests on the basis that it was ‘embarrassing.’

I published because public were being placed at direct and immediate risk
CoC complaint against me for breach of confidentiality - I just laughed
by (6.4k points)
Thanks Lbh.

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