Agenda item

Public Issues

To receive any public questions, statements or petitions submitted in accordance with the Constitution. Further information on the requirements for submitting these is available to view at the following link:-

https://democracy.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/documents/s2305/Public%20Items%20-%20Meeting%20Procedure%20Rules.pdf 

The deadline for the submission of public questions is 27 January 2022

The deadline for the submission of a statement is 12.00 noon, 02 February 2022.

The deadline for the submission of a petition was 19 January 2022..

Minutes:

The Committee was advised of the receipt of two Public Questions and one Public Statement and the questions and responses as set out below were provided to the Committee by the Monitoring Officer. The Public Statement was read out to the Committee.

 

First Question

 

QUESTION TO BCP COUNCIL AUDIT & GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE 13.1.22

 

Following my notifying emails commencing 25.7.21 - including 30.9.21 copied to CEO, Monitoring (MO) & Section 151 Officers & Leader - when will the Council resolve the following by:

 

1. Complying with the Local Authorities (Members Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 by publishing in the correct format and on the Council’s direct search website portals the details of Allowances paid to each Member for 2019/20 and 2020/21. The Council explains the cause of delay as a broken website “link”.

 

2. Complying with the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and issuing the MO’s obligatory explanatory report to all Members on this and other similar contraventions.

 

Philip Gatrell 5.1.22

 

Response by the Monitoring Officer to First Question

 

Mr Gatrell. Thank you for your question.

 

The Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 require the Council to publish the total sum paid to each recipient under the Scheme of Members’ Allowances in respect of the basic, special responsibility, dependents’ carers, travelling and subsistence and co-optees’ allowances.

 

BCP Council publishes these notices on its web site on the Councillors web page. The current notices published on the site are for 2019/20 and 2020/21. The notice for 2021/22 will be published on the same web page as soon as practicably possible after the financial year end.

 

Following the receipt of the question from Mr Gatrell, officers identified a broken link on the Council’s main web site. This was clearly unhelpful for users, however, the notices continued to be available from the Councillors web page and were readily available on the website and at all times satisfied the requirements of the Regulations.

 

I would like to thank Mr Gatrell for drawing our attention to the broken link which was resolved on Friday 7 January. The link from the Council’s main web site now directs visitors to the page containing the allowances notices.

 

Section 5(2) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, to which Mr Gatrell refers in the second part of his question, requires the Monitoring Officer to report to Council, if at any time it appears to her that any proposal, decision or omission on behalf of the Authority has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to a contravention of any enactment or rule of law.

 

A broken link on the Council’s website, although frustrating, does not meet the criteria for such reporting.

 

Second Question

 

REGARDING THE COUNCIL’S CONTRAVENTION OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES (MEMBERS’ ALLOWANCES) (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2003 (2003 REGULATIONS) & THE INCORRECT AND MISLEADING RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION AT THE COMMITTEE’S MEETING ON 13.1.22 WHEN IT WAS STATED THAT THE COUNCIL’S RELATED WEBSITE INFORMATION “… at all times satisfied the requirements of the Regulations”

 

Will the Monitoring Officer (MO) explain and confirm as appropriate the following, where the evidenced irregularities below had been previously notified by me to the MO in writing –

 

- Why the MO’s response at the meeting on 13.1.22 failed to disclose the notified contravention of the statutory 2003 Regulations, when it is manifest that the non-compliant format published online does not provide all of the necessary details for Members’ Allowances paid in 2019/20 & 2020/21?

 

- Does the MO confirm that the notified material discrepancies in certain Members’ Allowance payments will be corrected with timely republication online, together with any further adjustments?

Philip Gatrell 27 January 2022

 

Response by the Monitoring Officer to Second Question

 

I thank Mr Gatrell for his question.

 

Mr Gatrell has sent a significant number of emails in recent weeks raising numerous points, including both general matters of concern and specific allegations of inaccuracy.

 

In order to assess these detailed allegations it will be necessary to undertake a full reconciliation of each transaction of allowances paid to councillors since 1 April 2019.

 

This task will require the allocation of resources and it was not reasonably practicable to complete the work before this meeting.

 

Mr Gatrell has been advised that a detailed response will not be available until the necessary work has been completed by Officers to enable the Council to respond as fully and accurately as possible.

 

At that time the Council's response will be sent to Mr Gatrell and copied to the Committee.

 

Statement

 

PUBLIC STATEMENT FOR THE BCPC AUDIT & GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE MEETING ON 3.2.22 REGARDING THE COUNCIL’S CONTINUING CONTRAVENTION OF THE STATUTORY LOCAL AUTHORITIES (MEMBERS’ ALLOWANCES) (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2003 (2003 REGULATIONS) AS RAISED IN THIS WRITER’S QUESTION AT THE COMMITTEE’S PREVIOUS MEETING ON 13.1.22

STATEMENT The Monitoring Officer’s response on 13.1.22 noted that the appropriate website link for details of each Member’s Annual Allowances paid in 2019/20 & 2020/21 has been enabled. I have also been advised that the omission of the final two paragraphs from the verbal response - albeit incorrectly indicating compliance - will be reproduced in full written form by minuting on 3.2.22. It is not clear whether the 3.2.22 meeting will disclose the continuing contravention of the ‘2003 Regulations’ due to the incorrect published analysis of Allowances paid and, similarly, material misstatements in certain amounts, as previously identified and notified by me.

Philip Gatrell 1.2.22

 

In response to questions from a member of the Committee, the Monitoring Officer confirmed that the matters raised in the public question were important and material and the Chairman of the Committee confirmed that, subject to the deployment of available resources, the required information would be produced and an assessment made of the issues raised by the public questioner.