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Council (Wirral Council) 14th March 2016 starting at 22m21s at the start of the debate on the Girtrell Court motion
Cllr Chris Blakeley Thank you Mr. Mayor.
Mr Mayor, I think tonight I’ll just ask a question of the Leader of the Council this evening, he can see the approach that we have on this subject, the people in the public gallery, who have repeatedly attended in the public gallery at meeting after meeting to make their views known.
Mr Mayor, I’m saddened that I have to bring such a notice of motion, in an effort to underpin the democratic rights of both elected Members and of course the public we are here to serve.
Mr Mayor on this particular issue which revolves around Girtrell Court, this matter goes further than that. It goes to the very heart of why we are here and why we are empowered by the electorate to make decisions in an open and transparent way and in the public arena. In committees, in cabinets and most importantly in this Council Chamber.
Last week Mr Mayor, the Labour Members in this Chamber voted to a person to allow a budgetary decision that can only be made by Council, a decision that will have a massive impact on the most vulnerable people in our care, to be made behind closed doors without any means of challenge by this Council or the people it affects.
Mr Mayor, I’ve scoured the constitution and I’ve got a number of pages here with regards to budget procedures and I simply cannot find anywhere where it says budgetary decisions that can only be made by Council can be delegated to a portfolio holder and an officer to be made at a future date in secret behind closed doors.
(shouts of hear, hear and applause)
Mr Mayor, if this is allowed in this case where will it end?
Mr Mayor, I refer to the Council’s constitution and the constitution is divided into sixteen articles which sets out the basic rules governing the Council’s business and it talks of the principles of decision-making which includes references to respect for human rights and a presumption in favour of openness. Article 1 of the constitution states, “The Council will exercise all of its powers and duties, in accordance with the law and this constitution.”
At (ii) in that it says it will, “support the active involvement of citizens in the process of local authority decision-making;”
section (v) states, “create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to [public] account;”.
Mr Mayor, how can making a decision behind closed doors actively involve citizens and hold them to account?
Mr Mayor, section 2.3 states at (e), “All Councillors will be involved in decision making.”
Well Mr Mayor, if that’s the case, then why is that statement not being adhered to?
Article 4 deals with Council’s budget framework and states at the outset that, “the full Council will decide the Council’s budget and policy framework” . Section 4.2 states, “Only the Council will exercise the following functions:
[(i)] adopting and changing the Articles of the Constitution;
[(ii)] approving or adopting the policy framework, the budget and any application to the Secretary of State in respect of any Council land.”
Mr Mayor, again nowhere does it state that decisions on the Council’s budget can be delegated to individual portfolio holders, even in conjunction or not in conjunction with an officer.
Mr Mayor, I’ve looked at Phil [Davies]’ amendment and I have to say at the risk of destroying my street cred I agree with parts of the first paragraph. Yes, this is about people