PDGs: secret or not?

The first County Council meeting of this new council took place last Tuesday. As usual it was full of procedural stuff and coincidentally offered little opportunity for councillors to provide an input. Coincidentally because there were no Cabinet meetings between this meeting and the previous council meeting and there is no provision in the Constitution for motions or written or oral questions. That’s unfortunate because the meeting did take up the valuable time of Officers (senior and otherwise) and Members.

As is usual in this meeting there were constitutional changes to be approved and the Lib Dems took the opportunity to propose that the Council’s Policy Development Groups meet in public. These meetings which are cross party and are chaired by a Cabinet member are opportunities for Members to review and discuss proposed policy. In most other councils such review takes place in public and the fact that this is not the case in Cambridgeshire is curiously at odds with the Council’s excellent (post decision) scrutiny system.

The Lib Dem amendment, which was a reprise of a similar amendment 2 years ago) would have made PDGs open but would still have provided the facility to exclude the press and public if it were deemed appropriate. All other open meetings at the Council proved such a facility.

Unfortunately the Tories and Labour groups other parties on the Council did not share the Lib Dem view and voted against the amendment. To his credit the Green voted in favour.

David spoke in favour of the amendment and quoted from a recent speech by David Cameron:

‘… the starting point for reform should be a near-total transparency of the political and governing elite, so people can see what’s being done in their name’.

David continued: ‘there is really no need for these meetings to take place in private. As long as they do there will be public suspicion. Councillors are not elected to collude and with the current public mood it’s doubly important that we are seen to be fulfilling our roles effectively and ethically’.

The Bishop of Huntingdon was present, there is always someone to lead prayers, and he’s noted his observations on his blog. Click here to read them.

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