Tonight’s Extraordinary Council was short but good-natured. The only item on the agenda was to approve the list of polling districts and polling stations for future elections. That went through after a short debate, with all councillors agreed.
But after that there was a bit of unofficial business in the council chamber. We found out that Cllr Joan Mockford is leaving the area and moving to Bishops Stortford, and she was given a gift of two books about Rayleigh. Also Cllrs Terry Cutmore and Colin Seagers paid tribute to their colleague Barbara Wilkins who , as we reported earlier, has been awarded the British Empire Medal.
Last week we wrote about the expected reshuffle of committee places owing to Labour winning a second seat and Jamie Burton leaving UKIP.
However this is turning into a bit of an anti-climax, as Labour have declined to take any of the four places they are entitled to. So Chris Black and John Hayter stay on the Development Committee ,and tomorrow night the council has to sort out what to do about the other places.
The thing about musical chairs,is that when the music stops, someone is without a seat….
There’s an item at the next full District Council meeting about committee places. With Jamie Burton leaving UKIP and Labour gaining a seat in the recent by-election, this means committee places have to be re-jigged – parties lose or gain a committee place or two. This is rather more significant than usual because the Development Committee has been slashed in size from all members to just 13! As a result there are just two seats to be shared – between the three smallest groups - Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP. One group is going to be unlucky here, and if all three groups put a name forward it will go to a vote, where the Conservative Group will be in a position to determine the outcome.
Similar decisions will need to be taken about other committees. The situation is exactly the same for Audit, Investment Board, Licensing and Review – 2 places to be shared between the three smallest parties.
The Lib Dem nominations will be:
Ron Oatham – Licensing
Chris Black- Development, Audit and Investment Board.
Whatever happens, these committee places are only until the next elections in May. In those elections there will be three Councillors elected for the newly enlarged Downhall and Rawreth Ward. If we win all three seats we definitely get a place on Development and some other committees.
The Investment Board is a new District Council committee that means for the first time on Monday evening. It’s membership and terms and reference are shown above. It doesn’t look like the first meeting is going to be very exciting. However this committee could be an interesting sort of animal, we will have to see what is intended.
Further on in the agenda it says:
It is envisaged that the members of the IB, will be required to ‘roll-up their sleeves’ and contribute to projects and schemes as these are progressed through the various stages from inception to delivery.
When the meetings start to deal with important issues, we will let you know! (Unless things go private and confidential)
Well, the Conservatives pushed through their motion last night to remove 26 councillors from the Development Committee:
Whether or not you agree with the actual decision, there is still some dispute over whether the council’s constitution allowed for this motion to be moved last night.
According to part 4 section 16.1 of the constitution, a motion to rescind a decision of the council that has been made in the last 6 months has to be signed by 8 members, and this was signed by only 2. The decision to have a committee of 39 was taken at annual council 5 months ago. This may seem pedantic, but we really really don’t want to have a committee that votes on planning applications to possibly have its very validity subject to legal challenge.
The advice from our officers is that the decision is perfectly OK:
The motion on notice relates to a change to a mechanism that the Authority has in place to deliver business (its housekeeping arrangements) rather than a business decision. It is also suggesting an amendment to arrangements in relation to a Council Committee rather than the removal of a Committee.
However Section 16.1 doesn’t mention anything about “business”.
2 Lib Dems, 2 Greens, 3 UKIP and 5 Tories vote AGAINST the application.
14 Tories and 1 independent (Keith Gordon) vote FOR the application.
We wrote recently about Basildon Council, where a planning decision for a big housing site was kept away from Basildon’s own planning committee and decided under delegated powers.
Veteran Liberal Democrat Councillor Geoff Williams is now intending to table a motion of no confidence in the planning committee chair Cllr Morris on October 15th. The motion reads:
“This council believes in democratic and transparent decision-making processes and is alarmed at the decision of the chair of planning, Carole Morris, to deal with [Dry Street] by way of delegated powers rather than, as requested by other members, by committee.
“In these circumstances council resolves that it has no confidence in Cllr Morris as chair of the planning committee and removes her as chair of that committee.
“It is further resolved that in future, all planning application reserved matters relating to housing developments greater than 10 properties come before the planning committee for determination and that the council’s constitution be amended as appropriate to reflect this requirement.”
When someone with the stature and reputation of Geoff Williams proposes a motion of no confidence in you, you know you’re in trouble…
We have an ordinary Full Council meeting of the District Council tomorrow evening (Tuesday, 7:30) and you can find the full agenda here.
The most interesting part could be the questions on notice from Independent Tory Keith Gordon and Green Michael Hoy:
Michael Hoy’s account of last night can be read here One of his points is about the behaviour of the public there:
…I must emphasise that the protest was peaceful and friendly (although a couple of people did have raised voices) throughout and posed no threat, they would have moved if asked but no Officer did so for around an hour and a half, when I understand the public peacefully left the building…
The extraordinary council meeting tonight turned into a really extraordinary one.
It began at 9.10 pm after the Development Committee finished. Chris Black got in an early question – the agenda only said we were discussing a private and confidential report on a forthcoming planning appeal, could it at least be made public which appeal it was? So we can now tell you that the appeal was indeed for “North of London Road”
A vote was then taken to take the meeting into private, despite some members wanting to have at least some discussion in public first. Lib Dems, Greens, Residents and UKIP all voted against going into private, but we lost the vote.
There were about 30 members of the public watching the meeting, they were understandably unhappy at what was happening and simply refused to leave. So the meeting was adjourned for 20 minutes and nearly all of the Tories went upstairs for a coffee. Maybe they expected the public to leave, but they didn’t, instead they stayed there chatting amongst themselves , and with the various Lib Dem , Green, Residents and UKIP councillors. 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes, into an hour and the public were still all there.. Eventually they left and the meeting resumed at 10:50 pm.
What happened then we can’t say – but a decision will be published by the council soon.
So, we have two meetings of the District Council on Thursday evening, in the Civic Suite in Rayleigh opposite Holy Trinity Church.
The first is a routine meeting of the development committee starting at 7:30. This will deal with three planning applications:
Wheel cleaning at the big development site in Hawkwell. One of the original planning conditions was for wheel cleaning of trucks, now the developers want to get the condition removed.
Seating outside Greggs in Rayleigh High Street. This is recommended for approval, however Cllr Lawmon has called it in.
A trampoline centre in Purdeys Way, Rochford This is also recommended for approval, however it has been called in by Cllrs Lucas-Gill and Glynn. In view of Cllrs Glynn’s recent strong support for youth sport and fitness, it will be interesting to see what she has to say.
And then we move on to the second meeting, which will start after the development committee has finished. It will go into a private and confidential session, although you can expect some councillors to try to discuss some aspects in public.
It would be good to have some of the public present. The three planning applications should all spark some interesting debate, and if the second meeting stays in public session – even for a short while – it will be interesting as well. Also some councillors might be glad of some moral support!