Councillors Split Over Money For Secretive Committee

Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

A request to add £2100 to the budget of a secretive committee has split the Council.

Councillors attending the Policy and Resources committee were asked to approve the transfer of extra funding to the Standards Committee.

The group, which meets behind closed doors, investigates allegations of rule-breaking or unacceptable behaviour by Councillors and can rack up legal costs by bringing over investigators from Cornwall.

The Government wants these monitoring committees abolished in the future.

Councillor Richard McCarthy objected to the transfer request presented by Chief Executive Philip Hygate.

He said he’s not impressed with the standards regime nationally and described it as a failed policy.

Philip said it was a demand–led service and money was required to fulfil its legal duty.

But Councillor McCarthy wanted to know what the money would be spent on and also requested a breakdown of recent legal expenditure.

He says a fellow Councillor has been investigated for 12 months and is barred from talking to anyone else about it. We understand the issue relates to a remark made by a Councillor during a debate, which was viewed by some as personal and discriminatory.

Richard says this was an issue that should have been sorted out over a cup of tea.

There was deadlock when the vote over the funding came around. Marian Bennett used her casting vote as committee chairman to ensure that the money was transferred.

Richard wants a breakdown on how much the Standards Committee has spent on legal fees.

2 Responses to Councillors Split Over Money For Secretive Committee

  1. Linda December 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Once again the voices of reason and experience speak for us meer mortals, will the leaders of our council listen and accept that the time will surely come when we shall not accept what does appear to be dictatorship.

  2. Gordon Bilsborough December 1, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Last year, I expressed my deep concern about a contentious item on the Policy and Resources Committee being approved only by the chairman of that committee using her second (i.e. casting vote) after having already voted once.
    I am therefore extremely disappointed to note that the same chairman, (Marian Bennett), used the same procedure again to force through a recommendation to increase the budget of the Standards Committee by £2,100.
    This was a particularly sensitive item as can been seen from the Council’s recorded webcast of the Policy & Resources Committee meeting on 29 November. When the vote was taken to approve the recommendation, the chairman cast her first vote AFTER it was apparent only that a minority supported it. This caused a tied vote after which she used her casting vote to impose her wishes against the majority of the committee.
    Notwithstanding how strongly a chairman may feel on a particular issue, as a former committee chairman, I can never accept a chairman voting twice except on the extremely rare occasion to prevent a committee acting illegally. In my opinion it is flouting the basic principles of democracy, even though it is technically legal. There is a distinct difference between leadership and dictatorship.