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A public statement was made by Councillor Fairhurst, who was unable to attend the Chamber. A summary of his statement has been appended to these minutes.
Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.
Apologies were received from Councillors Asker, Eke, de Vries, Foley, Sutton and Fairhurst.
Councillor Hargreaves declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan item as he was Chair of the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. He would take no part in the debate and would abstain from voting.
Councillor Emmanuel declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan item as she was a member of the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. She would take no part in the debate and would abstain from voting.
Councillors Light, Freeman and Coote declared non-pecuniary interests as members of Saffron Walden Town Council.
To consider the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan report.
Councillor Evans presented the report on the Newport, Quendon and Rickling Neighbourhood Plan. He said Neighbourhood Plans represented a means by which community members could be involved in development in their locality. Once made, neighbourhood plans became part of the statutory development plan, therefore falling directly below a Local Plan. He said the Council were obliged to make the Plan following an overwhelming vote in favour of the Plan at referendum in May. He asked Members to support the proposal.
RESOLVED that the Newport Quendon & Rickling Neighbourhood Plan be formally ‘made’ as part of the statutory development plan for the District
Exclusion of public and press
Consideration of an item containing exempt information within the meaning of section 100I and paragraphs 5, 7 part 1 Schedule 12A Local Government Act 1972.
The Chair proposed to move into Part 2 in order for the motion of no confidence to be debated in full. He said the reasons for this were that councillors would be discussing legally privileged information and information relating to an ongoing investigation. He read the following formal motion as stated on the agenda:
Consideration of an item containing exempt information within the meaning of section 100I and paragraphs 5, 7 part 1 Schedule 12A Local Government Act 1972
Councillor Khan raised a point of clarification; for the purposes of good governance, should the motion not be debated in public if Members spoke in general terms?
The Chair responded to the point of clarification and said Council had a recommendation from the Monitoring Officer which would be voted upon.
Councillor Loughlin requested a recorded vote.
The Leader proposed the motion to move into Part 2. He said he would have been happy to have had the debate in public as it would have shown the motion to be nothing more than a political stunt. However, the Monitoring Officer had provided her advice, as well as Counsel’s advice, and he said Council had to respect their views.
Councillor Dean said Members should be trusted to conduct a debate in public. He had read his speech to the Monitoring Officer and there was nothing that could not have been said in the public domain. He found this offensive and challenged the proposal.
Councillor Lees asked Members to stop criticising officers in public meetings.
Councillor Khan raised a point of personal clarification and said it was about governance, not officers.
Councillor Lees disagreed and said Members had explicitly questioned the legal advice of the Monitoring Officer.
Councillor Dean was granted a right of reply; he said it was for officers to advise, and members to decide. Members were not obliged to accept that advice.
Councillor Sell said he had seen other motions of no confidence and they were held in public. He added that the Monitoring Officer had checked and given two speeches the “all clear”. He said it was a shame that the good sense of members was not trusted.
Councillor Merifield said the whole situation was saddening; a written record of the meeting would be available and councillors had been told that they needed to debate the matter in private due to legal privilege.
The Chair said he knew of three motions of no confidence that were taken in Part 2.
Councillor Pavitt raised a point of clarification and said, contrary to the reports in the press, the Uttlesford Independents’ Group were not signatories to this motion.
Councillor Isham said the issue of his membership had now been clarified and he apologised for any confusion caused.
The Chair moved to a vote.
To consider the motion of no confidence in the Leader and Cabinet (attached).
Councillors Isham and Light left the meeting at 7.05pm.
The Chair said Councillor Light had informed him that she was leaving the meeting as she felt it was illegitimate to move into Part 2.
Councillor Caton proposed a motion of no confidence in the Leader and Cabinet. He said the current Leader and Cabinet had failed on a number of fronts, including:
Councillor Caton said such failures were caused by the lack of good governance surrounding this Administration and it was clear that the Leader and Cabinet had failed in giving sufficient oversight to the governance of the organisation. He urged members to support the motion so the Council could start afresh.
Councillor Criscione seconded the motion. He reserved his right to speak.
Councillor Lees said she was disappointed with the motion. She said the motion, specifically the Stansted Airport planning appeal point, was a veiled attack on officers, as the Leader and Cabinet had no role in the planning appeal process. It was not for Cabinet to interfere in this process or to advise the legal team. She asked Members to address only those functions that were in the remit of the Leader and Cabinet, and to not criticise the work of officers, who had no right of reply in the public domain. She would not be supporting the motion.
Councillor Pavitt said he did not believe that Westminster politics had a place in local government, and that the established Westminster parties had a history of opposing resident led groups in different parts of the country, such as in the case of Frome Town Council. He said this Council had faced huge challenges since its election in 2019, including a collapsed Local Plan and a global pandemic, and he doubted that any party would have fared any differently. Furthermore, the Administration had also achieved notable achievements in its time in office. For these reasons he felt a vote of no confidence was not the best way to address the issues facing the Council.
Councillor Khan said the motion was not about officers; it was about the Leader and Cabinet. He asked why R4U had not taken disciplinary action against any persons subject to a police investigation.
Councillor Gregory said motions of no confidence were rare and should be treated with deference and respect. He said he could not support a motion of no confidence as he did not believe the necessary threshold had been met. However, he would have supported a motion of criticism; whilst there was much the Administration could be commended for, there were also areas for improvement that required addressing. He said the motion had not been well thought through and pointed to the ... view the full minutes text for item C5