Secrets …

20 Dec

Secret meetings are important to the people of Sidmouth, as they take place with alarming regularity at the Knowle, not only for relocation meetings but also meetings such as Asset Management – our assets.  In any given week  there are often as many closed meetings listed as open meetings.

Sidmothians may have followed the saga of Ottery Town Council HERE which had an undocumented meeting with developers (at the request of the developers) regarding development in West Hill.  They did not inform the district councillor for West Hill (who is also the county councillor).    When an Ottery councillor (Councillor Giles) informed the district councillor (Councillor Wright) he was called to a “kangaroo court” of councillors for breaking confidentiality and found guilty.  In an almost fantastical twist, the same councillors who had found him guilty voted AGAINST the sanction for his guilt!  Such is local politics.

However, this has implications for all town and parish councils, as well as the district council, indeed nations are currently debating how much information must be concealed from their citizens.  Why should developers be allowed to meet town or parish councillors in secret?  Councillors say that the developers are simply “information gathering” but why should town councils be used for such purposes when there is public consultation?   Often, as we have seen particularly in Feniton, the general public has a completely different take on developments to their councillors.

After a public outcry, Ottery Town Councillors changed their minds and released “notes” of the meeting.  However, this (if you are going to be as nit-picking as the council was regarding Councillor Giles) is unconstitutional, as a council cannot reconsider a decision made by full council until at least six months has elapsed.

The notes even show that the council asked Persimmons’ permission to publish them!  Can you imagine it!

The man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep (E. W. Howe)

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