Posted: 17.08.20 at 15:10 by The Editor
A Deepings councillor has received an apology from council chiefs after he was 'ejected' from an online council meeting.
Coun Ashley Baxter (Ind-Market and West Deeping) submitted a formal complaint to South Kesteven District Council following the meeting last month.
Coun Baxter (Ind) was observing the Alcohol and Licensing Committee meeting, which was taking place virtually via Skype for business. The only item on the agenda concerned an application for an alcohol licence in Colsterworth, near Grantham.
After hearing comments and questions from the council's licencing officer, the applicant and local residents, the Chair of the Committee, Coun Pam Bosworth (Con-Belvoir) instructed the clerk to remove all members of the public advising that the Committee was going to deliberate in 'closed session' and that they would be all be readmitted to hear the decision before the end of the meeting.
Coun Baxter says as an elected councillor with no personal or prejudical interest in the application, he was entitled to remain in the meeting to listen to the committee's deliberation.
However, he was removed from the meeting by the Clerk. He immediately tried to rejoin the meeting but again was removed. Some time later, members of the public were invited back into the meeting but Coun Baxter was not.
Coun Baxter told Nub News "This mistake is typical of the Conservative's disdain for proper process, scrutiny and transparency. Coun Pam Bosworth has been Chair of the Licensing Committee for more than a decade. She ought, by now, to be familiar with its rules and constitution and she ought to be defending the right of councillors to observe the decision making process"
He continued: "It's bad enough that so many decisions are being taken in secret and without scrutiny. The increased use of workshops and briefings which take place behind closed doors is a real concern but it's a sad day when even elected councillors are not allowed to hear what is being said in meetings".
Coun Baxter then made a formal complaint to the council's Monitoring Officer, and later received an apology.
A statement from SKDC told Nub News: "Councillor Baxter rightly raised this issue with the council immediately after the event and received a prompt reply and full apology including an explanation of what happened and why.
"The apology also included an offer to talk Coun Baxter through the items he had missed due to his exclusion from the meeting.
"The council is fully committed to being transparent in order to enable good and just governance. This incident was purely and simply a misunderstanding of procedure. Measures have already been taken to ensure lessons are learnt."
The statement added: "These are difficult and challenging times for everyone as we all adapt to new ways of working and living.
"Any suggestion that this error was anything more than a very human mistake is completely unfounded, unjustified, and unfair on the team who work tirelessly to support the residents, and all members, of South Kesteven.”