NO RECORDS TO BE KEPT OF HOW PENARTH COUNCILLORS VOTE

Penarth Town Council’s Council Chamber at West House in Stanwell Road in 2015

Penarth residents are to remain unable to find out how individual members of the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council have voted on various issues.

In most cases it will continue to be impossible for anyone to discover  – for example – which councillor voted against a home extension plan, or which member of the council supported the destruction of a local landmark. 

A new, revised version of the council’s Standing Orders – the document which governs the conduct of the council’s deliberations –  has just been published , but makes few changes in the less-than-transparent way in which the secretive council’s affairs are conducted.

Penarth Town Council’s HQ at West House in Stanwell Road, Penarth is public property.

The council claims that the new Standing Orders are designed to “Create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to account ” – but independent observers say that, in fact, the reverse is the case .

INDIVIDUAL COUNCILLOR’S VOTES NOT RECORDED:

Members of Penarth Town Council and its committees vote on a “show of hands”  – but unless an individual councillor asks for the vote to be “recorded” – (and usually no councillor does)  – no record is made or kept on how each individual councillor cast their vote. (Section 19.1)

MINUTES OF MEETINGS CAN BE DESTROYED AFTER THREE YEARS:

The new version of Standing Orders also continues the ability of Penarth Town Council to bury its mistakes by destroying its agendas  and the minutes of its meetings  after a period of only three years.  There is no obligation on the council to retain its minutes for a longer period and there is no on-line searcheable index of council decisions.   (Section 3 1. d)

RIGHT OF PUBLIC TO SPEAK AT MEETINGS:

The standing orders say members of the public can speak at any meeting of the full council or its “spending committees”. However the council is now changing the timing of these meetings from 19:00 in the evening to 18:00 – to make it less inconvenient for the council’s salaried staff officers. The change however,  may make it more difficult for working members of the public to attend. (Section 4.4)

COUNCIL REPORTS UNAVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC :

Much of the Council’s business involves discussing “Officer Reports” – papers written to set out the background of various issues and provide options for councillors to consider. Other councils openly publish their reports – in advance of meetings – on their websites. Penarth Town Council does not.

If members of the public wish to see Penarth Town Council reports they first of all have to know that such reports exist – and then they have to visit the  Council Offices at West House to read them. The new Standing Orders document still does not do not include any obligation for the council to publish these documents on its website.

SECRET MEETINGS: 

A number of meetings Penarth Town Council  are not classed as full-council meetings or council committee meetings – and are held secretly under the guise of being “working groups”, “sub-committees”, or “panels” – such as the council’s grandiosely-entitled “Strategic Review Group” .  There is no publicly-available list of all these groups or their membership.

The new version of the Standing Orders says “All proceedings of Committees, Sub-Committees, Working Groups  or Panels not open to the public shall be treated as confidential. No Member or Officer shall reveal any information which resulted in, or contributed towards decision to exclude the public and the press during the consideration of the matter and any comment on the decision reached shall be couched in terms that do not breach the requirement of confidentiality”  

“Under no circumstances is confidential information that forms part of the committee or proceedings shall be imparted to third parties ” [sic]  (Section 36)

 USE OF WEST HOUSE BY THE LABOUR PARTY:

Penarth Labour Councillors – and only Labour councillors – use the publicly-owned Penarth Town Council  HQ at West House as a venue for Labour Party engagements. Although the council charges other users for venue hire, it makes no charge to the Labour Party –  meaning that – in effect – the people of Penarth are being forced to subsidise the activities of a political party from public funds

One item not referred to in the Code of Conduct, or the revised Standing Orders, is the propriety (or otherwise) of allowing Penarth Town Council’s HQ at West House to be used for constituency surgeries by Stephen Doughty (Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth)  – apparently free of charge.

West House is also used as a venue by Labour councillors – but only Labour councillors –  to meet residents of their wards. It is not used for such purposes by the Conservative Party.

West House was originally bought from its private owner by Penarth Urban District Council – and paid for by increasing the town precept. It was then appropriated without compensation by South Glamorgan County Council, then handed on to the Vale of Glamorgan Council and then sold back to Penarth Town Council who increased the town precept yet again to raise the necessary cash to buy the premises for the second time. The people of Penarth paid twice for the same real estate.

West House has been twice bought and paid for by the people of Penarth – in both cases by increasing the Town Council precept . It is owned outright by the Council on behalf of all the people of Penarth.

Some local campaigners have already pointed out that although the council has a desperate need to increase its revenue from venue hire, it is providing facilities for the Labour Party free of charge –  and therefore, in effect, subsidising a political party from public funds.

TOWN MAYOR:

The Penarth Town Mayor is to  continue to be elected every year by councillors (in effect by the controlling political group)  on the “Buggins’ Turn” principle. There  are no proposals to have the mayor elected by the general public as is provided for under the Local Government Act 2000 . There is also no machinery to allow the electorate to remove a Town Mayor from office.

About NewsNet

Penarth Daily News email address dmj@newsnet.uk . Penarth Daily News is an independent free on-line fair and balanced news service published by NewsNet Ltd covering the town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK. All our news items are based on the information we receive or discover at the time of publication and are published on the basis that they are accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief at that time. Comments posted on the site by commentators reflect their opinions and are not necessarily shared, endorsed or supported by Penarth Daily News.
This entry was posted in Penarth Daily News. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to NO RECORDS TO BE KEPT OF HOW PENARTH COUNCILLORS VOTE

  1. David Moorcraft says:

    I accuse the Penarth Town Council of being secretive and blatantly undemocratic, failing continuously to be open to scrutiny by Ratepayers and the general public.
    In addition , there are Councillors who are “Two-hatted” , sitting also on the wretched Vale Council.
    It’s all too “cosy”.
    Let’s have a clean-out of the stables in May !
    (I’m a life-time, but disillusioned Labour voter.)

  2. Chris Franks says:

    In Dinas Powys we have a different attitude. Minutes are kept electronically since 2012 and placed on line. Older paper copies filed. Full Council meetings start at 7 pm. No free hire for councillor, AM or MP surgeries. The chair is elected on a non political basis. Votes of an individual councillor can be recorded but in reality there are few contentious votes. Members of the public are welcome to our meeting. Monthly County Councillors’ report presented and placed on line. Few, if any, working party type meetings that exclude the public. This, I suggest, is the benefit of having a Plaid led council.

  3. Chris David says:

    Forget the party political statements. This reporting infers Penarth Town Council is corrupt! Is it? Secretive and unaccountable! Is it?

  4. Anne Greagsby says:

    Its a disgrace that dads army/Penarth town council makes these changes without consultation just weeks before an election. I have raised many time the secret groups such as the momentum group. Even a FOI request wasn’t successful in finding out the membership. The chair of the momentum group is Martin Gossage, Chris Loyn is a member. These people are not subject to the same rules as Cllrs. They do not have to declare an interest or answer for their decisions. Why is there no women on the momentum group? Tory Cllr Turner attends these secret meetings working in cahoots with labour. For a council that is open and transparent Vote Plaid this time.

  5. NickP says:

    Vote for change…

  6. LJS says:

    Anne, please would you be open and transparent too, you have still to answer questions on your thoughts on the Welsh language and the dates of your residencies in Ely and Penarth.

  7. Chris David says:

    AG appears to have done some sterling work on the environmental front. But we still need to know if she’ll be supporting an increase on the £500,000,000 PA the UK tax payers forks out to support (enforce) the Welsh Language.

  8. penarthblog says:

    In the coming local elections there will be an opportunity to vote for the person who best reflects your views. As well as a right though, voting is a responsibility and that means it’s up to every voter to do the necessary research and to continue to monitor those self same politicians well after the election. I know this is stating the obvious, but many vote for a party because they’ve always done so. It’s encouraging that although a lot of the contributions on here are sometimes tribal and that’s only natural, it’s also encouraging that there is so much interest in the things that effect our town.

  9. Big Davey says:

    Secret votes and secret meetings in the 21st century ! On our payroll and expenses !!

    Are these councillors for real?

    • NickP says:

      They are The Establishment remember, and can be removed as they have been on a wider scale recently.

  10. Grey local says:

    I would like the “new” candidates of the independent party to state that of elected they would ensure that they would change the system to mirror that of Dinas Powys ensuring that voting at all meetings etc can be seen by the public. They may get some people to vote for them then

    • Big Davey says:

      Perhaps one candidate could stand with the commitment that they would record and publish the votes.

      The council could not censure any councillor willing to do this.

      Perhaps an existing councillor might have the ‘cojones’ to do this now?!

  11. Chris David says:

    Good idea GL- ALL meetings – committees etc

  12. Harry says:

    This is basically a charter for doing as they please.
    They sicken me with all their secret doings.
    People talk about it being time for a change but this mob are becoming more and more entrenched.
    Look at the pier pavilion scandal and not a word from any of the councillors.
    It seems to me they’re to their necks in it, all of them.

  13. Sick of the same old politicians says:

    MP or AM they are entitled to claim for room surgery rental so why the heck isn’t the council billing them.

  14. Monty says:

    Strewth. “Secretive”, “undemocratic”, “secret groups, meetings and votes”, “women under represented”, “sickening”. The Town Council has responsibility for the cemetery, Kymin, Paget Rooms, allotments and a couple of local events. Hardly the Kremlin is it?

  15. AK says:

    I found this the most interesting section.

    “The new version of Standing Orders also continues the ability of Penarth Town Council to bury its mistakes by destroying its agendas and the minutes of its meetings after a period of only three years. There is no obligation on the council to retain its minutes for a longer period and there is no on-line searcheable index of council decisions”

    No doubt in three years time there will be denial of who said what and when on a lot of things.

    But since PTC is largely an irrelevant (expensive) talking shop, with no real powers, they can soon be consigned to history (and save that £)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s