Councillors Say They Need To Trust Each Other Over Meetings

Council chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Council chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Councillors have rewritten a rule that could be used to prevent members from sitting in on some Council meetings.

And the debate, in the Full Council meeting on Tuesday, became heated when the Vice Chairman Steve Sims accused fellow councillors of leaking too much information to the community.

Until the change, the Council’s rules allowed all elected members to attend any committee or subcommittee meeting, whether they were on that committee or not. Non-appointed members could discuss items, with the permission of the Chairman, but not vote.

But they weren’t allowed to go along to the private meetings known as working parties, if they weren’t appointed to them.

Some members have claimed that more and more Council business is being discussed in these closed-door sessions, which only a select number of members can attend.

Cllrs Gordon Bilsborough and Fran Grottick wanted the rule changed to give councillors the right to attend any meeting discussing Council business.

But Cllr Sims said he wanted to continue with the restriction, citing a recent airport meeting, “that got leaked verbatim to the press.”

He said it’s created a situation “where frankly you can’t trust all your colleagues,” and “the less people there the better.”

That brought a strong response from Cllr Andy Guy, who said Cllr Sims words were “inappropriate” and accused the Vice Chairman of leaking information himself.

The Council’s Senior Legal Officer Richard Burraston said there were practical reasons not to allow all members to attend working parties, especially where confidential information is being discussed.

But Cllr Fran Grottick had researched this and found that “quite a few councils” including Cornwall open up their working parties, even to members of the public.

She said it was up to the Chairman to decide when people are excluded if sensitive items are being discussed.

And Mr Burraston admitted on further questioning from Cllr Christine Saville that his advice was just “a warning” and making the change wouldn’t be illegal.

Cllr Gaz O’Neill felt councillors needed to trust one another. He said the more people that are involved in any discussion, the more likely it will leak into the public domain, but “that’s a risk we run.”

And he said they couldn’t start self policing by saying “we won’t invite that person.”

That view was echoed by Cllr Mike Nelhams, who said this is a small community who know each other well.

“If we can’t be trusted to keep our views to ourselves outside the council chamber” he said, “then we shouldn’t really be councillors.”

In the end, eight members voted to change the rules to open up the working parties to any councillor who wants to attend.

They were Gordon Bilsborough, Colin Daly, Adrian Davis, Fraser Hicks, Fran Grottick, Andy Guy, Mike Nelhams and Gaz O’Neill.

Four councillors wanted to keep the current restrictions on attendance and voted against the amendment. They were Richard McCarthy, Christine Saville, Steve Sims and Robert Dorrien Smith.



12 Responses to Councillors Say They Need To Trust Each Other Over Meetings

  1. Illiswilgig August 17, 2015 at 10:36 am

    “Sadly there are too many cowards willing to moan and then hide behind an anonymous name.” so says “Julie Witts”!!!

  2. Illiswilgig August 16, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Oh dear Councillor Simms. It would appear that you are trying to dig yourself out of a hole. I heard what you said on Scilly Radio when they put out an excerpt of the meeting. I was aghast. Or will you now say that it wasn’t you. Maybe they are using Rory Bremmer to impersonate you?!!! I voted for you because you appeared to champion openness, transparency and accountability. I was greatly displeased to hear that you were one of a few councillors who voted to try and stop Councillors being present of at any meeting they wished to attend. Is that not the case? Will you now say that the vote result was taken out of context and you did not vote that way? Thank goodness for Andy Guy. It looks like he is going to be the Councillor who will keep a check on proceedings. I can say that I do not regret voting for Mr Guy.

    • Julie Witts August 17, 2015 at 6:41 am

      Illiswilgig – why don’t you stand for a position on the council? Personally I’m fed up with people having a ‘pop’ at elected officials. Sadly there are too many cowards willing to moan and then hide behind an anonymous name.

  3. Steve Sims August 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I am being taken out of context here. At the meeting I said that in principle I was for the motion. However, there was an informal meeting to discuss possible options for the airport a while back, which was then reported to the media by one of the councillors.

    This shouldn’t happen! I’m sure you can all see the utility of councillors being able to talk candidly about potentially awkward issues without fear of people misinterpreting an option (I.e. one would be shutting the airport down, another would be doing nothing) and assuming it’s now policy. This is also problematic for the airport staff.

    This isn’t an openness/transparency issue. Working parties are an elected discussion group which make recommendations to committee who may then decide to act upon those recommendations, or not. Also if a member wants to be on a working party then they will almost certainly be elected to it.

    Other things being equal I would have been for the motion, however as vice chair, which is a different role from chair of GP, I was making the point as forcibly as I could that until we resolve the issue of leaks from member(s) we shouldn’t move away from the status quo. We must build a situation in which ALL the members trust each other.

  4. A local August 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I feel very sad that Steve who was elected having promised to nurture a culture of openness and transparency is now a vocal advocate of keeping things quiet and ‘the less people the better.

    The words — ” White man speak with forked tongue ” — come to mind.

  5. Jonny Exile August 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I would have thought that Sims’ claim that “you can’t trust all your colleagues” has to be legally actionable even if it’s only to whoever’s responsible for standards these days.

  6. Sage August 10, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Hephaestus I feel let down like you by this regime which promised an ‘open door policy and now says ‘go away ‘ we are only sharing information on our terms!

  7. Hephaistos August 9, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I feel very sad that Steve who was elected having promised to nurture a culture of openness and transparency is now a vocal advocate of keeping things quiet and ‘the less people the better’.
    What is going wrong with this crumbling authority? I would look to the Linguist to bring order but pandemonium reigns,the infernal peers sit in Council and I fear that she may well have set herself up in glory above them.

  8. Morris August 8, 2015 at 1:28 am

    United they’re not, anarchy beckons.
    Tooting is along way from Scilly Todd and more democratic!
    What on earth is going on in the chamber?
    Are any of our members going to stand up soon?
    Things were supposed to get better!

    • Todd Stevens August 8, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      If you dont laugh at it you’ll cry. The biggest joke is the linguist who dont understand numerics. How funny is that?.

  9. Todd Stevens August 7, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Is Andy Guy the new Citizen Smith? “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!”

  10. Pat Hayden August 7, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Well done Fran and Gordon and those councillors who supported them.