Was the recent decision to award litter enforcement contract to Kingdom by Wirral Council lawful?
Nearly six years ago the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 came into effect on the 10th September 2012 which changed the way both decisions made by the whole Cabinet and by individual Cabinet Members should be made.
Regulation 9 of the regulations (as the award of the litter enforcement contract was a key decision) required a document to be published on Wirral Council’s website 28 days in advance of a decision.
For the litter enforcement contract decision, Wirral Council published on its website this page (a screenshot is below).
As you can see from that screenshot, the decision was listed as to be made in July 2018 (when it was in fact made on the 18th June 2018), however the page above doesn’t appear to include the information required by regulation 9(e), 9(f), 9(g) and 9(h).
To be more specific it didn’t include:
“(e) a list of the documents submitted to the decision maker for consideration in relation to the matter in respect of which the key decision is to be made;
(f) the address from which, subject to any prohibition or restriction on their disclosure, copies of, or extracts from, any document listed is available;
(g) that other documents relevant to those matters may be submitted to the decision maker; and
(h) the procedure for requesting details of those documents (if any) as they become available.”
Regulation 21(1)(b) requires any documents open to inspection to also be published on Wirral Council’s website.
An article on the Local Government Lawyer website published around the time the regulations came into effect interprets this as meaning “a document explaining the key decision to be made, the matter in respect of which a decision would be made, the documents to be considered before the decision is made, and the procedures for requesting details of those documents, will have to be published (regulation 9)”.
The report to the Cabinet Member dated 18th June 2018, however wasn’t published until after the decision was made.
So why is Wirral Council acting against openness and transparency by not publishing a list of the documents that will be considered by the Cabinet Member 28 days before the decision as well as the address and procedure for inspecting such documents?
Could it be that because putting such information in the public domain might give those affected by the decision a chance to lobby the decision maker in advance of the decision which might lead to a different decision?
Councillors on Wirral Council’s Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee will have a public meeting starting at 4.00 pm on the 17th July 2018 in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall to review the decision to award the litter enforcement contract to Kingdom.
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