After 8 years in the planning what is the actual Local Plan for Herefordshire for 2011 to 2031? Here for Hereford has been trying to find out for over a week now, what the final Local Plan documents for adoption at the Extraordinary Council meeting on Friday 16th Oct 2015 actually are. We have had no clear response and on Friday 16th Oct we found out why – no one really knows what documents are to be sent to the Secretary of State as the Local Plan for Herefordshire 2011-31.
The newly appointed Monitoring Officer had to admit she didn’t know which Appendices of the Local Plan were being adopted when asked, but she told the full Council Meeting that she had been assured that they were on the Herefordshire Council website, somewhere! So much for Herefordshire Council’s Constitution requiring documents to be available for 5 days before a meeting. This rule is there for a good reason – so that Councillors can make a sound decision with a full understanding of what they are actually agreeing to.
The meeting deteriorated further into utter confusion to the point where it had to be adjourned as no one had apparently received the formal Cabinet recommendation from the Cabinet meeting the day before. The Council agenda showed that the full Council was being asked to “consider the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting held on 15th October”. With no Cabinet recommendation published or circulated there was technically nothing for Councillors to actually vote on.
A typed notice of the Cabinet recommendation was subsequently circulated in the break on bits of paper. The recommendation as written made little sense to anyone in the public gallery or the press. I am sure we will find out what was actually agreed when the Council have typed up the minutes.
We hope that Herefordshire Council will undertake training to ensure that Council meetings are organised and conducted in accordance with their own Constitution and that documents and recommendations to be voted on are published in accordance with meeting rules. It would seem that Council officers also need to have training on what is actually contained in their own Constitution.
On notice of the Extraordinary Council meeting refusing public questions Here for Hereford had already challenged the Council’s decision to forbid public questions being asked. Public questions are clearly permitted in the Council’s Constitution and are an important way for residents to highlight matters of concern to elected members. Things were further confused when it became apparent to Here for Hereford that additional “minor” modifications had been added to the papers for adoption that had not formed part of the public consultation on the Local Plan that took place earlier in 2015.
The reputation of the County is being brought into disrepute by the debacle that was observed at the meeting on 16th October 2015. It leaves many people wondering if this administration should be allowed to manage huge sums of public money and make important decisions that profoundly affect the lives of all residents living in Herefordshire when such an important meeting is conducted in the manner observed yesterday.
A film of part of the proceedings can be found here