• EDDC chief executive overrules panel decision on transparency

    5th March 2012 | News | Claire
  • Members voted on a proposal from me to hold forthcoming meetings with town councils, with the press and public present, rather than behind closed doors, as advocated by Head of Economy, Kate Little and Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Moulding.

    The proposal was supported six votes to one.

    In a shock move, panel members have now received a letter from chief executive, Mark Williams, stating that he has overruled this democratic decision, made by councillors.

    Mr Williams states that the decision to allow the press and public to be present at forthcoming meetings between town councillors and planning officers, ‘would be harmful to the ongoing effective working of the Council.’

    He adds that:  ‘The views of the public are not being sought and no decisions will be taken so from an administrative perspective there is nothing to be observed.’

    After I challenged this draconian decision which rides roughshod over a legitimate democratic decision, Mr Williams replied:  ‘If the Panel considers it essential that the public be able to observe the discussions with the Town Councils then the proper way of doing this would be through further meetings of the Panel itself. 

    ‘The views that are expressed and debated will be compiled into an officer’s report that they will submit back to the Panel. It will be the Panel which will make the subsequent decision/recommendation onto the Development Management Committee.’

    ‘What it can’t do is impose on the officers a novel form of meeting that has no basis in the Council’s constitution.’

    Firstly, I am astonished that the chief executive has decided to take such extreme measures as to overturn a vote by councillors at a meeting. It was a vote overwhelmingly in favour of my proposal (six votes to one).  The meetings were described by Cllr Andrew Moulding (who was arguing strongly for the meetings to be held behind closed doors) to be ‘sandpaper and polish’ type decisions. 

    I am baffled as to why EDDC has reacted so strongly to the decision to hold these meetings in the public domain.

    It is clearly in the public interest for these meetings to be held with the press and public present, especially in Ottery St Mary, where feelings are running high about development.  The determination to hold the meetings behind closed doors, despite a decision to the contrary taken by elected members, will simply serve to stir up suspicion and negative feeling in the town.