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Posted by: John Brace | 5th February 2014

New law to make it mandatory to record individual councillor’s votes (by name) at Wirral Council’s Budget Council

New law to make it mandatory to record individual councillor’s votes (by name) at Wirral Council’s Budget Council

                    

Coming into force on the 25th February 2014 (the day Wirral Council decides on its budget), the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 will mean that the votes of each individual councillor on the budget (and amendments) will be recorded by name in the minutes of the meeting. This will include any councillor who votes for, against or abstains.

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP said in a written statement “Over the coming weeks, councils will be holding their annual budget meetings at which they will formally take decisions about their expenditure on local services and their council tax levels for the year ahead. These discussions will affect the lives and household budgets of all who live in the council’s area.

Local people should be able to see how those they have elected to represent them have voted on these critical decisions. However, such decisions could be clearer.

A survey by Conservative Way Forward in August 2013, based on Freedom of Information Act requests to 340 councils, found that 78% of councils could not or would not say how councillors had voted on setting that year’s council tax. Three-quarters of councils which chose not to freeze council tax had not recorded their votes.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 will lay the way for greater reporting of council meetings using digital and social media. To complement this, we believe that local accountability would be further enhanced by asking all councils to publish, as a matter of record, how each councillor votes on any budget decisions including council tax changes. Indeed, recorded votes are the norm for parliamentarians.

Accordingly, we have written to every council leader making clear our expectation that this year all councils will adopt at their budget meeting the practice of recording in the minutes of the meeting how each member has voted on the budget and amendments to the budget.

To facilitate this, we laid before Parliament the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which make provision requiring councils to amend their Standing Orders (it is open to councils to waive them before they can be permanently amended) so as to make mandatory the practice of recorded votes at budget meetings.

This small but practical reform increases council transparency and accountability over council tax, and highlights the work that councillors do in championing their communities and representing local electors.

It is the latest step in a series of measures the coalition Government have taken to help address the cost of living for hard-working people. This Government have announced a further two years of council tax freeze funding, on top of the average 10% cut in council tax in real terms that this Government have helped deliver since May 2010.

We will be also publishing shortly the final local government finance settlement and the council tax referendum threshold for 2014-15. ”

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Responses

  1. Pickles is absolutely right. Local government is a leaky sieve as far as public finance is concerned and cuncils (see Private Eye) have wasted our cash like there’s no tomorrow. TOMORROW HAS ARRIVED

    • Well judging by media reports today his plan to reduce the Council Tax increase referendum threshold to 1.5% has been blocked by both the Lib Dems and the Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May (the latter being concerned of its effect on police budgets).

      So it looks like (although these things haven’t been published officially yet) that Wirral Council’s budget assumption of a 2% Council Tax rise won’t trigger a referendum, although interestingly the budget Cabinet papers include options for a 1%, 1.5% and 2% rise in Council Tax.

  2. It’s the best thing Pickles has ever done. Read this for some comments on how the current system protects and advances the interests of the crooked and the corrupt:

    http://wirralinittogether.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/how-much-of-the-1-million-plus-pay-off-money-did-wirrals-council-leader-sanction/

    In future, if we need to ask the question, “How much of the £1 million plus pay-off money did Wirral’s Council leader sanction?”

    …the crooked and corrupt officials won’t be able to hide.

    • Sorry to burst your bubble a little, but it only applies to the yearly budget decision meeting of Wirral Council and not other Council meetings, meeting of committees or subcommittees. It’s a step in the right direction though towards your wish for all votes at Wirral Council to be recorded by name in the minutes.

  3. open & transparent once is a start, come on Mr Pickles how about it for all votes its a thought

    • Do you think the Lib Dems would support such a move though?

  4. Aaargh.

    • As ever the devil is in the detail eh?

  5. If the voting and attendance record was made public those people with more than one brain cell may have to rethink who they vote in at the next election.

    • I think that’s the whole point, to increase accountability and transparency of local councillors and head towards the levels we already have for MP’s voting records in Hansard.

      The attendance record of who’s at what meeting is already public and is usually pretty high at Budget Council meetings anyway.


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