Thursday, 17 December 2009

Council decision probably illegal

Plaid Councillors in Carmarthenshire have welcomed the decision made by the council to back down over the closure of four care homes, but have claimed that the way in which subsequent decisions have been taken is unconstitutional and probably illegal. The Plaid leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “The Executive Board’s proposal was heavily defeated at Scrutiny Committee, when the Plaid motion was passed. Clearly that meant that the council needed to change direction, but I was very disturbed to read the press release issued by the council, which said that the decision was taken at ‘an informal meeting’ of the Executive Board. This is no way to take decisions, and the council’s constitution simply does not allow for this.

“All meetings at which decisions are taken have to be properly convened, with proper notice given, and the press and public have to be allowed to attend. Taking decisions in ‘informal meetings’ with no notice to anyone is not only unconstitutional, it is almost certainly illegal. Proper process appears not to have been followed, and I have asked the council’s Chief Executive for an urgent explanation of the process followed in this case.

”In addition to that, they appear to have decided something different from what the committee members thought had been agreed. After the original proposal was defeated, the council’s Executive Board member put forward a suggestion that a group be set up to look again at the issue. We understood that that would be a task and finish group of councillors, representing all parties on the council. It seems, however, that the council’s Executive Board – in its ‘informal meeting’ – has changed that, and is setting up a panel of officials from several different organisations which will meet behind closed doors, and not be subject to democratic scrutiny. This is an extremely worrying development.”

Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, Plaid’s deputy leader on the council, added, “Clearly, the Executive Board had not considered for one minute the possibility that their proposals would be rejected. They are far more accustomed to getting their own way in every vote, and expected their own members to blindly follow them – as they always have in the past - rather than listen to the arguments. The result is that they appear to have panicked and attempted to try and present the rejection of their proposals as their decision. In the process, they seem to have completely disregarded the council’s own rules and procedures.

“One of the main issue now is for the Labour Party to spell out exactly where they stand. Their members supported Plaid in trying to defeat the original proposals – if they stand their ground, we can kill the proposals once and for all. If they allow themselves to be browbeaten by Meryl Gravell and her gang, then the proposals are likely to be put forward again. Which is it to be?”

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