Sunday, 05 December 2021

Council in row over brevity of minutes

RESIDENTS of Goring have accused the parish council of a lack of transparency.

Members of the public attending the council’s first in-person meeting for 20 months complained that previous minutes were too vague.

The minutes are taken by the parish clerk and act as a formal record of council meetings.

Recently, the council’s minutes have only recorded decisions made by the council without providing information about what was said in discussions, as happened previously.

The council said its minutes were accurate and that it did not need to provide more information.

However, residents argued that while the minutes might be legally acceptable, the council should be more open and transparent by providing more information.

The council used to meet monthly but now meets once every two months.

It did not hold a meeting from May until this month and the minutes from May were not made available until the latest meeting.

Summarised minutes used to be submitted to the Goring Gap News but the council has now decided to submit its own articles featuring a selection of items from meetings instead.

Resident David Bermingham said: “There is a growing concern that over the last 18 months the council has become more and more secretive.

“They’re making it less and less easy for the public to know what’s going on and how decisions are made.

“In the public forum part of the meeting they’re only allowing people to speak if it is about an item on the agenda, so if there’s an issue they don’t want to talk about they can just not put it on the agenda.

“And they have now curtailed the minutes to the extent that they only report decisions made, not the basis of decisions, what was discussed and how people voted.

“They say that if people care about what’s going on why don’t they turn up to the meetings but a lot of people have walked away because they don’t allow people to speak anymore.

“It’s damaging democracy. The council shouldn’t be afraid of people knowing what’s going on.”

Fellow villager Stephanie Bridle told the meeting: “The way that the minutes are currently produced are, in my view, not up to the standard we have come to expect.

“They do not provide sufficient transparency or clarity at a time when the council has reduced the number of meetings each year by half and is making all decisions behind closed doors, thereby excluding the public from its deliberations.

“The electorate should be able to read the minutes and be able to get a clear understanding of what the council is doing on their behalf. Currently this is not the case.”

Councillor Lawrie Reavill abstained from a vote to approve the last meeting’s minutes, saying they were accurate but not adequate.

He proposed that the council discusses the issue at its next meeting but other councillors argued the issue had already been discussed and Cllr Reavill could not find a seconder.

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