ABC Council fails to tell you decisions it is taking

Despite being asked to do so twice, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has failed to provide a list of recommendations elected representatives have made at behind closed doors meetings in May.

While the need for such secrecy remains unclear, Council took the decision to conduct its business in May behind closed doors.

Every committee meeting, with the exception of the planning committee did not meet this month, with members instead taking part in private working groups to discuss Council’s business.

Any decision reached at these working groups will require unanimous support before the outcomes are adopted by Council with Council’s Chief Executive, Roger Wilson, signing off on them through powers given to him under delegated authority.

However, when asked, in the interest of open and transparent accountability, to provide a list of recommendations made to the Chief Executive, during these meetings, Council has so far failed to do so.

When asked why the decision was taken to conduct its business in May in this fashion, a Council spokesperson said it was a result of the change in legislation regarding virtual meetings.

The regulations allowing for meetings to take place virtually came into effect on May 1, 2020, but expired on May 7 of this year.

However, at least one other Council is continuing with its programme of virtual meetings, streamed live to the public, with the decisions reached implemented by the Chief Executive under delegated authority.

Attempting to explain the decision to hold these working group meetings behind closed doors, a spokesperson for Council said there is currently no legislation permitting remote attendance at committee meetings.

“At no point did Council say it was not streaming meetings because legislation prohibited us from streaming meetings, clearly it does not,” said the spokesperson.

“We do not currently have the legislative basis for remote attendance at meetings.

“Therefore, given the on-going pandemic situation, the decision was taken for members to be briefed in working groups with recommendations taken forward by officers under delegated authority as appropriate.

“These are not council meetings, as defined by the Act, as they cannot, in the absence of the legislation act as decision making bodies.

“As the regulations change the council is keeping the situation under review and the council will, as ever, respond to changing circumstances.

“A list of delegated actions will be brought to the June council meeting.”

Editor’s message:

Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a copy of the paper. You can also support trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription of the News Letter.