Secret Meetings Should Be Recorded, Says Councillor

Councillor Richard McCarthy

A St Agnes Councillor has made a plea for Council proceedings held behind closed doors to be recorded electronically.

Cllr Richard McCarthy was referring to the so-called Part 3 of committee meetings, where the public and press are excluded. At this point, it is normal practice in our Council for any video or audio recordings to be switched off.

Richard said he was in no way implying that these recordings should be made public, but it was in the Council’s interest to have a verbatim record of all its proceedings at its disposal.

He said “we’re long past the days where 200 words of shorthand per minute was the norm,” adding that “we shouldn’t be relying on the committee secretary’s notes or members’ recollections of what was said.”

It was common sense, he said, to keep an accurate record, so queries about minutes or disagreements can be easily and sensibly resolved.

The proposal was supported by other members and will be brought to the next P&R meeting.

There have been several contentious issues discussed in closed session recently, including pay rises and market factor supplements for senior officers. Some Councillors have also voiced their concern that too many items have been withheld from the public.


10 Responses to Secret Meetings Should Be Recorded, Says Councillor

  1. Todd Stevens September 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Your missing the point a bit here people. Mr Mcarthy was wanting the “secret meetings” electronically recorded and this is a perfectly reasonable request. Human error often occurrs when a person writes down what is said and this can often lead to conflict of opinions which can be easily settled with the recordings.

  2. Kev Wright September 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Maybe it would be an idea for the council to notify the public as to what the subject matter is ahead of any secret meetings and that way we’d know the reasons why it should be kept under wraps?

    Islanders should be informed as much as possible about any council activity but if some things need to remain private we should at least be told the subject matter – As in Alan’s example – let us know that tendering/budgeting will be discussed so the public understand the reasons why some facts need to be kept private.

  3. Bill Hiner September 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Ah yes-“confidentiality”. Such a pity that this isn’t a two way idea! It seems to me that ANYTHING can be leaked to the general public/press/media over here by council officials, but on occasions that suit their needs, it becomes a “need-to-know” situation.
    You can’t have it all ways.
    Any meetings, private or otherwise, should be accurately minuted and those minutes published at a later date in accordance with data protection and privacy legislation. Remember that our officials holding these private meetings need to be protected from accusations of impropriety, especially on the notoriously “tender” system. This can only be achieved by the use of minutes.
    Aren’t most of us ratepayers and therefore have the right to see where our hard-earned cash is being spent?

  4. Stuart September 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Simon and Simon, you both make reasonable comments regarding this matter, however……
    In “my” opinion the council do quite a bit behind our backs (22% pay-rises and dumping waste material without consultation being two examples) plus they either ignore freedom of information requests or use the £500 cost of delivery tactic in order to not allow information into the public domain, so when ever they close the doors to council meetings I rightly or wrongly wonder what they want to keep hidden from the public.
    The reasons might be legitimate but because our council are held in such low esteem
    by the majority of the public I’m sure you can understand why closed meetings are often viewed with suspicion.

  5. Different Simon September 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

    For information, the legislation from this summer sets out 3 situations when the public “must be excluded from a meeting”:

    (a)it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during that item, confidential information would be disclosed to them in breach of the obligation of confidence;
    (b)the decision-making body concerned passes a resolution to exclude the public during that item where it is likely, in view of the nature of the item of business, that if members of the public were present during that item, exempt information would be disclosed to them; or
    (c)a lawful power is used to exclude a member or members of the public in order to maintain orderly conduct or prevent misbehaviour at a meeting.

    The legislation also requires notification of a private meeting 28 days before the meeting and again at 5 days. This notification must also set out the reasons.

  6. Alan September 22, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    In cases of tendering, and the details of a project and estimated budget for a project, it is in the best interests of a Council to keep secret the amount put aside for a project, otherwise you’d get contractors offering to complete the project for exactly the amount set aside, when in fact had they not known how much was available then they might have tendered a price far below.

  7. Stuart September 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Simon, as I said before, Councillors are the elected representatives of the people, nothing should be hidden from the people.
    The term “legal” is in my opinion just an excuse that council officers use to keep things hidden from the public, for instance, 22% self awarded pay-rises or how much tax payers money has been spent on legal fees defending decisions or actions made by council officers etc.
    If there is a commercial decision, again this is a decision being made on behalf of the people, again, nothing should be hidden from the people.
    If it is an employment matter, please remember that ALL council staff are employed by the people.
    There is NEVER a justified reason for keeping things hidden from the public except perhaps for matters of national defence, which is hardly a matter for local government.

  8. Simon September 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

    You obviously have no understanding of local government Stuart. There are legal reasons why some things are not discussed in public and rather than ranting on an internet forum, why not contact the town hall to find out the reasons why some items are private. The reasons are all available in black and white, just because you have an opinion on something, it doesn’t change the facts or the rules.

  9. Todd Stevens September 22, 2012 at 10:33 am

    If there must be closed ‘secret’ meetings then too right they should be recorded. And anyone who does not agree must have things they’d like to hide.

  10. Stuart September 22, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Why hold any session in secret?
    Councillors are the elected representatives of the people
    Why do councillors or senior officers feel the need to hide things from the people they are supposed to represent?.

    The fact that they feel the need to hide things from me makes me suspicious of their motives.
    As a tax payer that funds the council I have a right to know what is being said or done in my name.

    There should be no closed meetings, ever!