Agenda item

Minute Book - February - September 2020




The Minute Book for the period February – September 2020 was submitted for consideration, whereupon:


Item No. 17 - Special Regeneration Scrutiny Committee – 8th September, 2020


A Member said that there had been a considerable amount of confusion at the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee yesterday at which, the above-named minutes were considered.  In the main, this confusion and lack of understanding related to the systems and processes to deal with minutes at a ‘Special Committee’. He had checked previous Committees including Special Executive but was unable to identify any other meeting where this process had occurred and said that clarification on this matter should be sought prior to the minutes being accepted. 


In addition, concern had been raised regarding the balance and reflection of debate captured within the minutes of the final exempt item, as no mention had been made to points raised regarding the viability around asbestos removal and the condition of building.  There had also been a request made that when the item was considered by the Executive Committee (this happened to be an hour following the Scrutiny Committee had concluded), that the views of the Scrutiny Committee were conveyed together with a request that the report remain in an exempt status until these matters had been addressed. He concluded by reiterating that clarification on these matters should be sought prior to the minutes being accepted and that he would personally be unable to accept the minutes in their current format.


The Chair pointed out that it was her understanding that Members of the Scrutiny Committee had taken a vote on this particular set of minutes and they had been accepted as a true record of the proceedings.  The Member advised that it was his understanding that the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee would meet the Leader and Deputy Leader to discuss the matter further.


The Head of Governance and Partnerships reminded Council that a request that had previously been made by Members for sets of minutes to be submitted to the next available Scrutiny Committee for consideration, wherever this was possible and this included ‘Special’ Committees.


The Chair of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee confirmed that there had been no confusion about the minutes, the Advisor had confirmed that it was in order for minutes to the presented to a Special Committee for consideration.


The Leader of the Labour Group said for the same reason outlined by his colleague, he was also unable to accept the minutes and expressed his concern at the speed at which the set of minutes had been produced and also that the scrutiny process had been ridden across as a result.




The Leader of the Council advised that he was confused as to where the scrutiny process had been ‘ridden’ across because exactly the same principle had happened on the previous Monday with regard to the Wood Facility report.  He explained that this process took place where there were contentious issues or issues that were beneficial to the authority that needed to be progressed.  With regard to the report relating to the Pithead Baths, a business plan would be looked at to ascertain if it was feasible to resolve a problem that had been in existence for over 30 years and having the capability to act in a speedy manner would allow officers to move the process on more quickly.  With regard to the Wood Facility report, the Corporate Director had actually been contacted by Welsh Government to thank the authority for acting quickly, because this would allow the project to progress.


The Leader continued by stating that whether the Executive had taken place 1 hour or 2 weeks after the scrutiny process, the process was exactly the same and the Constitution stipulated that when the Executive needed to consider at item, this should be done as quickly and reasonably as possible.  Therefore, whilst the Executive was being criticised for speeding up the process, he pointed out that the scrutiny process had not been negated in any way.


The Leader of the Labour Group clarified that he was referring to the ‘call in’ process because as soon as Executive Committee had concluded, the Executive Member had issued a statement on social media and to the press which totally rode against ‘call in’. Scrutiny Committee Members should have had been provided with time to reflect on the recommendation they had made – therefore, the ‘call in’ process (which was for a period of 5-days) had been totally routed because the information was provided immediately to the press and this could be perceived as a ‘done deal’.


The Leader of the Council advised that the ‘call in’ process remained in place and it was not improper to release a positive story to the press, the content of which would have been authorised prior to its release.   He pointed out that if a ‘call in’ had been required or had taken place and some other decision had been made during that period, a contrary statement would have been issued to the press. He concluded by stating whilst the decision making had been speeded up, the scrutiny process was absolutely not being undermined.




The Leader of the Labour Group pointed out that an additional 5 days would not have made a difference and as courtesy to Scrutiny Members they should have been provided with time to reflect on the recommendation made.  Therefore, for this reason i.e. the way in which the scrutiny process had been cut across, he would not be supporting acceptance of these minutes.


A Member said he was concerned about the options put forwarded at the meeting and an additional recommendation had been made that the site owner should be made accountable for the cost of asbestos removal and other items before it became public knowledge and progressed to the next stage.  However, this information had not appeared in the minutes from the Executive Committee.  He expressed his concern that the decision had been rushed through the process and reiterated that he was unable to support acceptance of the minutes.


Another Member said that he felt that there were double standards operating and made reference to the discussions at the previous Council meeting regarding the disclosure of exempt information.  He also concluded by stating that he was unable to support approval of this set of minutes.


A Member said that he had actually proposed that the preferred option be endorsed at the Scrutiny Committee and if any Member had not wished to support this proposal, they could have made an amendment at that juncture.


The Leader of the Council said the debate was now progressing into the realms of legalities.  The main difference between the press release and that which occurred previously at Council was that a full confidential report had been released to outside bodies that contained commercially sensitive information.  The press release that had been issued in respect of the Pithead Baths had not contained commercially sensitivity information and the Executive Member and Communications Team would have sought approval from the Legal Department before this information had been released.


The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance commenced by advising that she was aware of correspondence that had been exchanged between the Leader of the Labour Group and Managing Director relating to issues around exempt items – there was some confusion what exempt items were and their status and the intertwined rules of confidentiality too.  The officer advised that she was in the process of preparing a briefing note for all Members to advise on the issue of exempt items.  However, this did not mean that because a report was exempt that it could not be discussed at all.  An exemption applied to members of the public and press but clearly did not apply to internal dialogue and discussions and once a decision had been made then a managed press release was often appropriate to set out to the public and press the Council’s intentions. 


Regarding the approval of minutes, the officer confirmed that once minutes had been submitted to either a special or scheduled Scrutiny Committee they would be submitted to Council for ratification which was the current process.  It was understood that a vote had been taken at the Scrutiny Committee and had been carried.  The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance acknowledged that a number of Members wanted their objection recorded against the minutes but advised she was unsure what the basis of the objection was - if the minutes were factually incorrect, Members should set out what the factual inaccuracies were.


In reply to a question when an exempt item was not an exempt item, the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance confirmed that the report was exempt from press and public view at a point in time but reiterated that this did not mean that the topic itself should not necessarily be discussed – it was noted that a topic needed to be discussed for a project to be progressed.  She concluded by advising that she would circulate a note to all Members on this matter as soon as possible and convene a short MS Teams session at that time.


Councillors J. C. Morgan, H. Trollope and S. Thomas requested that their names be recorded against the decision to accept the above-named set of minutes – Item No. 17 – Special Regeneration Scrutiny Committee – 8th September, 2020.


RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be approved and confirmed as a true record of proceedings.