Councillor Accuses Officers Of ‘Megaphone Diplomacy’ Over Changes To Meetings


Councillor Colin Daly

Councillor Colin Daly

Cllr Colin Daly’s plan to allow wider discussion over what gets onto the Council’s agenda hasn’t been backed by other councillors.

The St Martin’s member wanted all councillors to meet informally to agree what would be up for debate, four weeks before a meeting.

And he wanted that session to take place without officers present.

Currently officers meet with committee chairmen to set the agenda around one week before the meeting.

Colin also wanted to bring in discussion when reviewing meeting minutes, so that councillors could ask officers what progress they had made since the last meeting.

Cllr Marian Bennett also wanted to see more discussion, claiming there was often a lack of in-depth debate, which she says serves a useful purpose.

But in an email circulated just before the meeting, Legal Officer Richard Burraston warned that the change could result in legal problems.

The rules state that only the accuracy of the minutes can be debated and members can’t discuss whether officers have done what they were asked to do.

In a strongly-worded rebuke, Cllr Daly described the tactic as “megaphone diplomacy” and said it would have been more productive for the Legal Officer to have spoken to him, before brining that point up on the morning of the meeting.

Colin said, “This doesn’t do anything to lower the suspicion that officers are trying to run the Council for their own aims, rather than to help members to pursue the interests of their constituents.”

Mr Burraston apologised, saying he only had time to deal with the issue the day before and it wasn’t his intention to cause offence or issues with transparency

But Colin struggled to find support for his changes among fellow councillors.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough felt discussion of the minutes would “open the door” to re-runs of debates that had already been decided and that informal agenda setting sessions meant double the number of meetings.

Cllr James Francis said it wasn’t always clear when the agendas were being set but a ‘round-robin’ email informing members could help.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin felt that informal agenda setting meetings were happening anyway. She hoped that all councillors felt able to have an input but added that the system should be “smoother and easier.”

Councillors eventually agreed that officers will formally update the Council on progress at each committee, rather than allow discussion on the minutes.

And they rejected the agenda-setting meetings, proposed by Cllr Daly.

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