Devon Lib Dems Call For Emergency Meeting To Challenge County Secrecy

March 24, 2014 2:37 PM

An emergency meeting of Devon County Council is being called by the county's Liberal Democrats who are concerned at the secrecy and way major decisions are being taken behind closed doors at county hall.

Concerned by the way consultations about closures of care homes, day centres, youth services and children's homes are being handled, the county's Liberal Democrats have invoked a special rule calling for a special meeting of the county council to be held.

Astonished at the way young people were prevented from speaking at the council's budget in February and council care staff stopped from giving their views at a Cabinet meeting this month, the Lib Dems say 'enough is enough'

The Lib Dems say the extra-ordinary council meeting would not have been necessary if the ruling Conservatives had allowed the county council to handle matters in an open and democratic way and permitted the voices of residents and local people to be heard by all councillors rather than a few behind closed doors.

Questions will also be asked about the propriety of a leading councillor, who was also a Cabinet member at County Hall, now becoming managing director of one of the council's major suppliers of services without, it is understood, any natural break between leaving the council and taking up the post or a confidentiality agreement being agreed.

Cllr Alan Connett, shadow Leader of the Council and leader of the Lib Dem group on the authority, said:

"Increasingly, really important decisions which affect the elderly, young and vulnerable, are being taken behind closed doors and without public debate.

Cabinet meetings are little more than rubber stamp exercises where Conservative councillors, who receive a lot of money for their roles, are not even debating these matters. Too often now we see the Leader of the Council setting out his view, and then his Cabinet members vote.

The people of Devon deserve better than this. Local residential homes are closing, youth services are under threat, children's homes are being shut down and decisions are not being taken in public where the issues can be aired and debated.

What they're doing is deciding matters behind closed doors and then publishing the decision - leaving it for councillors to challenge it but without access to all the information and detail that helps describe why a decision has been made."

The County's Liberal Democrats are lodging their request for a special meeting of the council today (Monday 24 March).

Concern about the way the county council is excluding people who object to closure plans have mounted since the February budget meeting when young people were barred from speaking for a few minutes about planned cuts to Devon's youth services.

With major consultation events running about pulling out of care homes, day centres, and privatising the children's homes services, the Lib Dems say it's vital consultation responses are fully aired and discussed by all councillors and no longer dealt with behind closed doors.

Note to News Editors

Key decisions on the future of important council services have been delegated by the County Council's cabinet to individual cabinet members to make, following any period of public consultation. This means that decisions are being taken by a few, behind closed doors, rather than in open and in public.

Effectively, this is locking out other county councillors and those who will be affected by proposals or their representatives.

Also last week, William Mumford resigned as a member of Devon County Council to take up the role as Managing Director of Norfolk Property Services south west. We understand this is a joint venture company, which the county council has an interest in, and that it manages the county council's properties and most schools.

For further information please contact Cllr Alan Connett

T: 01392 560121 M: 0784 301 3705