Privacy and ‘missing members’ launches Parish Council Steering Group
The Sutton Coldfield Parish Council Steering Group held its inaugural meeting yesterday, 13th October, and got off to a flier by giving a resounding slap in the face to transparency.
The group agreed, and rumours have it unanimously, that all future meetings will continue to be held in private. An ironic decision considering some of those present were happy to verbalise there distain when a previous group looking at the town council did the same.
While the publication of minutes and agendas is welcome – and I believe part of the document agreed at Council in September rather than a decision made by the group – this is clearly not the same as being able to report from the meetings directly.
It is important to observe those nuances and interactions that are not recorded in the minutes first hand. The non-verbal as well as the verbal. To be able to make objective observations of the members and their contributions; the force with which they argue important points. If the Parish / Town Council is to be as open and transparent as everyone wishes would this not be a good time for the steering group to set that precedent? After all, what is there to hide?
With regard to the group’s agendas these are listed on the Birmingham City Council website under committees – https://birmingham.cmis.uk.com/birmingham/Committee.aspx – begging the question, is the steering group a BCC committee and, if so, is it not obliged to sit in public?
What we do know about the group’s first meeting was that it was light of a couple of members. Two organisations clearly recorded in council documents as being part of the steering group hadn’t actually agreed. Embarrassing.
This has resulted in the group consisting of three members of the Sutton Coldfield Town Council Referendum Group and nine BCC councillors. Getting to sound more like a BCC committee by the minute.
When the group transitions over to the interim Parish Council in March the meetings will be held in public and I fail to see any good reason why that process cannot start now. After all, the public that the doors are being closed upon are the same public that signed the petition and voted in the ballot to bring the Parish Council into existence and have a right to observe its creation through the steering group.