Friday, 17 August 2007

Dear Sir Reggie

On today's BFP letter page there is the not-so-rare treat of a letter from one of my electors, Sir Reginald Harland, criticising the legal advice given to councillors in connection with the recent ASDA planning meeting.

He confuses the issue by extending advice given to those voting in a quasi-judicial committee (on a planning application) to all members in all situations. He even suggests that those town/borough councillors who had an interest in the Manor House vote (inter alia because they had tried to acquire it) were only barred from the borough council vote because they had merely expressed a view.

The advice is clear: you can't vote on a planning or licensing issue if you appear to be biased or have predetermined views before the meeting. Nor can you vote on any matter if you have a prejudicial interest. But that doesn't mean that councillors can't speak out or vote on their manifesto commitments or indeed in general.

Come on Sir Reggie - you're having a laugh!


david said...

The key word in this post is 'appear' in the final paragraph. 'Appear' to whom? Someone in possession of all the facts? And who might that be?

Reggie Harland fails to understand the difference between advice and instruction. Nobody tells Members what to do, but we are obliged to consider advice given to us by the legal staff at SEBC before deciding if any personal interest we may have is prejudicial.

There is no such clause as 'to be on the safe side' and so the Member has to make a decision after examining their own consciense. Any Member who doesn't know what is in their own mind is probably in the wrong job.

picklesmum said...

There's TWO pictures of you in the BFP today!! Greedy!! LOL

Paul said...

What a relief your name isn't David - welcome back PM!

The speedgun story was supposed to be in last week, but they accidentally substituted two pages of Stowmarket news (even more boring then Bury's!) and the awful 2003 council picture could have been something much whackier if they'd asked me.

Count your lucky stars, the smoking item had no picture!

Dog Walker said...

Paul, are you suggesting that none of the councillors who voted on the Asda application had a view on the matter before they went into the meeting?

I just don't believe that!

They may not have voiced them, but the committee members will have had an opinion.

There would be no point in having party groupings within councils if all decisions were made 'on the hoof' and independently by members. That's the whole point - councillors toe the party line.

John Griffiths has spent the last several months 'spinning' against Asda - are the Conservative councillors on the planning committee likely to follow a different line? I think not.

Paul said...

An interesting argument DW, and all are welcome on these pages.

They may have had a point of view, as you say unexpressed, but do not assume it would be along party lines as this is not accepted. I was present at the meeting and i heard a variety of opinions, not just the 'party' one - whatever that may be!