An excellent Editorial last week ‘Transparency and democracy’ (p34) and a set of pretty damming letters.
You quote an HDC spokesman (why do we not know his/her name? And so yet another secret!) saying ‘To date there has been a less formal approach to the administration and operation of AG’s (Advisory Groups). Notes were not produced for all AGs on all occasions. No complaints were received until recently and they were perceived as working well.’
How can that last statement possibly be true when I wrote to Mr Crowley (Chief Executive) on 21 October 2013 drawing his attention to the actions of Cllr Vickers in holding her planning advisory meetings (PPAG) in secret against the council policy known as Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) which every single councillor voted for at full council in September 2011 when Cllr Ian Howard was the cabinet member for planning.
Mr Crowley was asked the following questions:
1. Is the SCI in full force and effect i.e. unchanged since it was voted and adopted on at council on 23 September 2011?
2. If the SCI is in full force and effect what part(s) of HDC’s Constitution permit a Cabinet member to unilaterally change part(s) of the CSI without reference to council?
3. Will you advise the Cabinet member Cllr Vickers to reconsider her position in holding PPAG is in closed session or is there now going to be a change to the council’s SCI (para 33.8)? If the latter, then why?
4. Had, and is, HDC in breach of its own CSI policy? If so, how does it intend to remedy the matter?
5. If the above is accepted will HDC release all the planning officer(s) agendas, minutes and notes of all meetings of PPAG held in closed session?
6. Is HDC at any risk of failing the Inspector’s test re. the SCI at para 3.8 with regards to community involvement in that the community were unable to see through public meeting(s) of PPAG the process during June and July 2013 before the draft Preferred Strategy was published for consultation in August 2013?
7. Does the action of the Cabinet members mean HDC has acted ultra vires and if so is HDC at any risk of judicial review? Has HDC taken any legal advice on the same?
Pending your response to the seven questions above, may I strongly encourage, as others have done earlier, that HDC urgently reviews the unilateral decision of the Cllr Vickers’ to hold PPAG to closed session’.
So for Cllr Lee to say with such authority ‘No complaints were received until recently and they were perceived as working well’, perhaps he should check his facts before going public.
Needless to say, we never received proper responses to these questions and so perhaps a judge will get answers on oath where the public were given the brush off.
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON
Tennyson Close, Horsham
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