Discussions with Lead Member and Assistant Director Housing.
Councillors David Hughes and John Todd attended the meeting as observers. After welcoming those present to the meeting Cllr Brad Fisher expressed great disappointment that Cllr Steve Curran, Lead Member for Education and Housing had sent his apologies and would not be discussing the Allocations Policy Review as planned. He stated that he was more than disappointed that the Panel Chair, Cllr Sue Sampson, had also sent her apologies. Cllr Fisher said that he felt it a great shame that just three members, all Conservatives, had attended the meeting which had been in the calendar for months which, he stated, greatly devalued the meeting and its purpose. Expressing the view that the scrutiny function was discredited and demeaned by the absences, Cllr Fisher said that he wished to cancel the meeting, asking officers to reconvene at the earliest possible date and ensure that all members were present.
Cllr Peter Carey said that he agreed wholeheartedly with Cllr Fisher’s disappointment given that the evening’s discussion was of such importance; however he stated that in his view the meeting should proceed so that those present could hear Alison Simmons’ presentation of the Allocations Policy Review and register their comments. Cllr Carey advised that because some members were not present to take part in the debate did not mean it should not go ahead and he did not agree with the cancellation of a quorate meeting.
Cllr Felicity Barwood said that she too was very disappointed with the level of absence as it was critical that the Panel heard and debated the Allocations Policy Review. Cllr Barwood requested that another meeting be convened as soon as possible, preferably before the Annual Meeting of the Borough Council on 15 May.
Ben Osifo, Scrutiny Officer, advised that the next scheduled meeting of the Panel would be on 21 May and that due to the currently very busy calendar it would not be possible to arrange another meeting any earlier. He added that officers were unable to guarantee Councillors’ attendance.
Cllr John Todd thanked the Vice-Chair for permitting him to address the meeting and stated that he found it unacceptable for the Chair and the Lead Member for Housing not to be present when such key issues were due to be discussed. He advised that he had been overwhelmed by the number of emails on a wide range of housing matters and also had consistently seen the role of scrutiny demeaned. Cllr Carey stated that scrutiny was part of the consultation process and that in his view Cabinet was not treating the consultation process with respect; the absence of the Lead Member was indicative of this.
Cllr Sheila O’Reilly arrived at 7.10 pm and apologised for her lateness.
Mr Osifo advised that he had been informed that Cllr Curran had been detained by an unavoidable work commitment and that Cllr Sampson was unwell.
Cllr Fisher outlined statements made so far and invited Cllr O’Reilly’s comments. Cllr O’Reilly agreed with the sentiments expressed by other members and asked if a letter could be written to Cllr Curran outlining members’ concerns. Cllr Fisher agreed that a letter could be written and that he believed the best course of action was to end the meeting at this point and discuss the Allocations Policy Review at the meeting on 21 May. He thanked Alison Simmons and Ben Osifo for the work they had put into the report and agenda and apologised for not continuing the meeting on this occasion. The meeting was concluded with the agreement of members.