Tangled webs

4 Jan

Councillor Roger Giles (Councillor 2 below) is responding to issues at Ottery Town Council below. It should be a lesson on why transparency is always the best policy in all councils:

Dear
I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas. Best Wishes for 2014.
I thought that you would like to know some of the latest OSMTC developments.
There is a meeting of OSMTC at 7pm Monday 6 January. The agenda papers for the meeting are very interesting. At the time of writing this message, the OSMTC website only contains the agenda for the 6 January meeting. Presumably the public will not be able to see the supporting documentation ahead of the 6 January meeting.

The minutes of the OSMTC meeting of 2 December page 62 Min 13/12/26: TO CONSIDER AND DECIDE ON ACTION AS A RESULT OF THE BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY FOLLOWING THE PLANNING COMMITTEE MEETING OF 18th NOVEMBER 2013
“There was concern over an alleged breach of confidentiality which involved much discussion. A proposal that `Cllr X gave information given in confidence which he knew to be of a confidential nature` was supported by Councillors Holmes, Hansford, Watmore, Lewis, L. Harding, J. Harding and Carter and opposed by Councillors Thurgood, Giles, Bailey, Talbot and Pang. The motion was therefore carried by 7 votes for and 5 against. Cllr Thurgood, althought not present at the Planning Committee Meeting suggested that the matter might perhaps be best dealt with by arranging for its investigation outside of the current meeting. This was supported by Councillor Pang who expressed concern about the process of how the Council was dealing with the matter in public A subsequent proposal that `Cllr X be excluded from the Planning Committee until May 2014` was supported by Councillors Holmes, Carter, Lewis and Hansford and opposed by Councillors Thurgood, Watmore, Giles, Bailey, Talbot, L. Harding, Pang and J. Harding. The motion was therefore defeated by 4 votes for and 8 votes against.
At 9.54pm Councillor X left the meeting.”

The minutes are wrong in various respects:
1. I was referred to by name at the meeting, not as “Councillor X”
2. The item on the agenda referred to a “breach of confidentiality”, not an “alleged breach of confidentiality”
3. I formally proposed that Claire Wright be allowed to speak during the debate, as she had been mentioned several times, and should have been a key element of the debate. The Mayor refused to allow the Council the opportunity to vote on my proposal. There is no reference in the minute to my proposal.
With regard to points 1 and 2 it appears that OSMTC belatedly recognises that it made errors in its 2 December meeting, and is attempting to minimise the damage, by misrepresenting in the minutes what actually happened.

The minutes of the OSMTC meeting of 2 December page 59 Min 13/12/11: TO ALLOW MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC PRESENT TO SUBMIT QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
This long minute includes details of comments made by 3 West Hill residents about OSMTC meeting Persimmon. The minute concludes:
“(g) Cllr Giles proposed and Cllr Bailey seconded that the meeting with Persimmon should be minuted. The proposal was defeated by 6 votes to 5.”
This minute is also wrong because I proposed that the meeting should be minuted and the minutes made available to the public.

What is also interesting is to look at the minutes of the OSMTC Planning Committee meeting of 16 December:
page 75 Min P/13/12/17 TO RECEIVE COUNCILLORS` QUESTIONS RELATING TO PLANNING MATTERS
“P/13/12/18
Councillor Thurgood asked what proposals were in place to inform the public of the informal meeting with Persimmon Homes and he also suggested a Policy be put in place for Meetings with Developers.
P13/12/19
Councillor Dobson responded saying he had signed the notes and once they had been circulated to those Councillors who were present at the meeting then they would be put in the public domain and also sent to the Press. He reiterated again that advice had been sought from DALC to hold the `informal meeting` The Confidential part of the Notes however, could be seen only in the Office by those Councillors present at the inforrmal meeting.”

So some elements of the meeting were made available to the public – but not other elements. Why were some parts of the meeting kept back, and on what basis, and with what justification? Was this at the request of Persimmon Homes?

OSMTC Planning Committee appears to have endorsed a decision which was at odds with a decision made by the full Council a fortnight previously. This is contrary to the OSMTC constitution.

There will clearly be many aspects of this very unfortunate affair to be debated further at the OSMTC meeting on 6 January. I hope very much that many members of the public will be present to see what their councillors say and what they may agree in the best interests of the people of the Ottery Parish.
Best Wishes
and thanks again for your support.
ROGER
There is an on-line Express and Echo story which you may wish to see. I will send you this shortly (my limited computer skills prevent me from incorporating the E&E story into this email)

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