Councillors Reject New Document Defining Officers’ Powers

town hall 8A document that defines the powers that senior Council officers can wield has been sent back for further review after being criticised for lack of clarity and bad English.

The Authority’s Scheme of Delegation is a legal requirement, which sets out how senior Council managers can make decisions without elected members being involved, or where they have legal powers of enforcement, such as under Environmental Health legislation.

A new version was requested last May, but the document brought to the Full Council Meeting on Tuesday by Senior Legal Officer Richard Burraston was criticised by councillors.

Cllr Adrian Davis said it was “muddled and confused” and the English was poor.

He said it mentioned criminal acts but didn’t define how they were determined to be illegal.

“Do officers decide that?” he asked.

And he highlighted a section that says the Senior Community Services Manager has a duty “to prevent the causes of ill health.”

Adrian said if they can do that, “I have nothing but admiration for them.”

As a former GP, he said he’d spent his career trying to prevent ill health with “a singular lack of success.”

Adrian said he could see the need for the document but this one had “too many small inconsistencies” that worried him, when it needed to be “in black and white and set in stone.”

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough felt parts of it gave the Chief Executive the powers to decide if a matter was referred to members for further discussion.

Gordon said if he or she decided to, they can veto it and stop it being discussed by Council.

“It appears to it give officers the discretion to override democracy,” he added.

But Mr Burraston defended the wording, saying that much of it was statutory, and had to be written in that way.

And Cllr Steve Sims said many of the powers would only be used by officers if something had gone “very wrong.”

That didn’t wash with Cllr Colin Daly.

He said it was all very well to say the powers wouldn’t be used, but “that’s what the Fascists said when they were passing their legislation.”

“We have to be very careful what we say in this document or we could end up with a very bad situation,” said Colin.

In the end, councillors didn’t approve the document and sent it back for further review by their Democratic Process Panel.

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