What went on behind closed doors on Monday?(September 27, 2009)
WARMINSTER Town Council held a discussion behind closed doors for which no minutes are available to the public, a former councillor has discovered .
"I knew that they were going talk something over in secrecy but the agenda did not state what the subject was," said Paul Macdonald.
The agenda for Monday night's meeting was a full one concluding with 'In view of the confidential and special nature of the business about to be transacted, it is advisable in the public interest that the public be temporarily excluded from the meeting and they are instructed to withdraw.'
"In my days on two local authorities there would normally be a brief description about the subject be it an employment issue or legal matter without giving away the substance," said Paul who served as a deputy mayor of the town council.
"I thought I would check the minutes to find out what decision was reached but was amazed that the minutes merely state that 'the meeting moved into closed session at 8.45 p.m.'
"There is absolutely nothing minuted after that!"
"I believe this is not good practise and wonder what other members of the public are going to make of it.
"As well as being against the regulations controlling the conduct of local councils it is also a recipe for incorrect speculation about what was going on and a high degree of distrust."
Steve Dancey, who has attended a wide range of council meetings all over the country, said: "No doubt those involved felt they had good reason for going into closed session.
"However the usual thing to do, as Paul said, is to give brief details of the matter and then reveal which section of the 1972 local Government Act is being used to exclude the public.
"This must then be included in the minutes with a brief description of what was under discussion.
"This enables an elector, if he so wishes, to check with the legal team at Wiltshire Council to see whether the minor council was correct in opting for the matter to be discussed in camera.
"I have been at meetings elsewhere and refused to leave until this information is provided and will be quite happy to do so again."