Agenda - Extra-Ordinary MeetingTuesday 13 Feb 2018 - 6.00pm
You might like to note the following Agenda which has appeared on the Parish Council website:
Item 3: To resolve whether to exclude the public and press for consideration of the following confidential matters - Redevelopment of Nocton Village Hall.
Why might the public and press be excluded?
Whilst Parish Councils are not bound by the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985, they are obliged to open their meetings to the public. The legislation is provided by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.
However, on occasion a Parish Council may, by resolution, exclude the public from a meeting. This will happen if publicity of the topic to be discussed would be prejudicial to the public interest e.g. where it is a confidential matter, such as the clerk’s employment, or perhaps it includes sensitive details of tenders and contracts etc.
As you can see, the meeting is still advertised in the usual way and the resolution will only be passed if there is a majority agreement of the Councillors to exclude the public and press from the specific agenda items, for the reason of confidentiality or other special reasons.
Let's see what advice is given on the web.
NALC Legal Topic Note 5
"The meetings of the council (and its committees) must be open to the public (which includes the press) pursuant to the provisions of S1(1) of the 1960 Act. However, the public may, under S1(2) of the 1960 Act be excluded from the whole or part of the meeting if it resolves that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution."
Shackleton on the Law & Practice of Meetings
[P361 para 4: 29-12 & 29-13]
The following relates to access to Parish Council meetings:
"Certain other bodies, left behind by the flow of legislation aimed at the principal organs of local government, remain regulated by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960."
"The body is obliged by the 1960 Act to specifically state in the resolution the reason for its decision that the public is to be excluded. There exists the possibility of legal challenge through the administrative courts should the power to exclude be used unreasonably or improperly. In relation to this power, an affected body may treat the need to receive or consider recommendations or advice from sources other than members, committees or sub-committees of the body, as a special reason why publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest."
Local Council Administration by Charles Arnold Baker
[P60 - Eight Edition]
It appears Parish Councils do have specific advice on this matter, as set out in this leading text:
"In few cases is there any good reason for excluding the press or the public from meetings... As a rule, however, it is desirable to treat the discussion of the following types of business as confidential:
(a) Engagement, terms of service, conduct and dismissal of employees;
(b) Terms of tenders, proposals and counter-proposals in negotiation for contracts
(c) Preparation of cases in legal proceedings; and
(d) The early stages of any dispute."
It is clear from the legislation that the policy of excluding the public and press from public meetings should be used very sparingly.
It is well nigh impossible for the public to see why this matter might be deemed confidential, necessitating their exclusion. If one studies how our local authority drafts Agendas, although North Kesteven District Council are covered by other legislation, they do at least have some indication as to why the restriction might be necessary.
I believe it would have been more helpful to the community if the specific reason for the Extra-Ordinary Meeting on Tuesday 13th Feb 2018 was incorporated into the Agenda item - "Redevelopment of Nocton Village Hall" - which after all is a very generic, wide-ranging topic.
- Freedom of Information request - Spennymoor Town Council
- Local Council Administration by Charles Arnold Baker
- NALC - Legal Topic Note 5
- National Association of Local Councils - Tel: 020 7637 1865 Fax: 020 7436 7451 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.nalc.gov.uk
- Shackleton on the Law & Practice of Meetings