Refusal to discuss council blame show causes anger

The decision to reject a controversial discussion topic for next week's full council meeting is not politically motivated, town hall bosses have said.

Saturday, 27th February 2016, 12:00 pm
Coun Jim Ellis

An opposition member had called on the authority to reveal the costs related to its investigation into TV documentary Don’t Blame the Council.

But the motion has been deemed not competent for debate, prompting accusations officers have acted undemocratically.

Coun Jim Ellis, an independent representative for Hindley, claims his motion fits all the necessary criteria and covers an issue of public interest.

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It read: “This chamber calls for a full disclosure of the costs of the investigation and outcome following the TV programme fiasco.”

However, legal officer Linda Fisher countered that she “completely refutes” accusations the block has been a political decision. She told the Evening Post: “As required in the rules the motion failed to put forward a proposition with a clear desired outcome, it attempts to deal with two issues and it does not contain information to pass a resolution.

“It simply asks for information and is not suitable for discussion.”

The council concluded its internal investigation earlier this year with its findings suggesting senior officers were kept in the dark about the content likely to be damaging to the council’s reputation.

But the costs - and burden on the taxpayer - have not been revealed given that a significant number of officer hours are understood to have contributed to the probe.

Coun Ellis said costs relating to officer time have been used to highlight the burden on the council from standards complaints made against opposition members and, therefore, should be released in this case.

He added: “Is this how it’s going to be all the time now? This is an issue of how public money has been spent. They just don’t want to discuss it. I feel it’s undemocratic.”

Town hall bosses have previously stated their desire to move on from the debacle and are thought to have revealed all the information they deem appropriate.

Opposition members have been briefed about the findings, the Evening Post also understands.

However, the block for the council meeting next week appears to be at odds with what councillors were told at the first meeting after the show aired last year.

Attempts by members to bring up the subject were shot down by Mayor Coun Susan Loudon because the investigation was ongoing but they were informed they would get the chance to ask questions once the probe had concluded.

Mayor Loudon said at July’s meeting: “Whatever happens, we want the right ending to the inquiry and if there is an appeal and obviously councillors will be part of that process so if they start to discuss it here - if I was a union rep, I would be saying that’s not fair, you’re having a discussion beforehand.

“And there will be an opportunity when we’ve got an outcome, we will be able to discuss it then because we will be completely free. But we can’t discuss it at the moment, it would be very difficult.”

Coun Ellis’ motion is the second to have been rejected for next week’s meeting with a bid by Standish Independent Coun Gareth Fairhurst to discuss allowances also knocked back.