Wrexham’s Executive Board unanimously decided to move a Motion requesting suspension of the Kingdom enforcement into ‘Part 2’, a section of the meeting held with all members of the public removed.
Prior to the agenda item Council Leader Mark Pritchard requested ‘some legal advice’ over the Motion before the Executive Board.
Wrexham Council’s Legal Officer read a long prepared statement after she had been ‘invited to give advice’ over whether the motion should be heard in the open part of the meeting, or consider exempting it from public.
The Officer explained that as the motion asked councillors to consider suspension of the Kingdom contract, and was likely the debate would contain information over the performance of contract, plus there is still twelve months to run on the contract ‘both council and contractor are entitled’ to privacy on such matters.
The Officer invited a consideration of balancing commercial confidentiality against the public interest, however explained that although the ‘council has to consider transparency in relation to spending of public money, that has to be balanced against right of third party with their financial and business affairs’.
It was noted that any decision to discuss the issue in public ‘may discourage’ other contractors and affect future council contracting and could therefore ‘damage’ the council’s reputation in such matters.
Councillor Pritchard commented very little on the motion, noting his ‘surprise’ over the exact wording of it, but said he thought it was ‘sensible’ to place the item in Part 2 – a private debate.
Cllr Pritchard looked to formally place the item later on the agenda and invited a proposer and seconder from the Executive Board for that move, however before a vote could take place Cllr Marc Jones called a point of order.
Cllr Jones said he wished to ‘contest the decision I think you’re about to make’. Cllr Jones pointed out that another item already in Part 2 had been ‘flagged up in advance’, whereas he pointed out the plan to move the motion to Part 2 was something he heard of last night, saying “It is not a good way to go about things”.
In a cordial exchange of views, with the new Chief Executive Ian Bancroft observing proceedings, Cllr Jones said he believed ‘the public interest overrides any commercial confidentially’.
Citing ‘intense’ public interest and interest from the local business community, Cllr Jones went on to note that the topic had been infront of a Scrutiny Committee in December and the contract itself was ‘open to public view’ and ‘has been discussed on public forums’.
Wrexham.com’s own inspection of the contract was referenced, adding that as he felt the document was ‘public’, ‘It would be strange if we weren’t able to discuss it in public when they’ve been able to view this themselves.”
Cllr Jones wrapped up his speech by noting two other councils have debated the issue in public, “We have to be very careful about discussing it behind closed doors as will be open to challenges over lack of openness.”
Cllr Pritchard apologised for the late notification over the Part 2 advice, due to the Officer being on holiday, adding his position remained unchanged, “I take on board what was said. I always go on grounds of safeguarding the council and work to the constitution.”
“The advice given is sound advice and keeps us safe.”
Perhaps indicating how the Motion will be handled later the Executive Board members were invited to propose and second the plan to move the item, as the meeting is the Executive’s rather than a Full Council meeting.
Cllr David A Bithell moved that the substantive motion was moved to Part 2 later in the meeting ‘for consideration at that stage’ basing his decision ‘having considered legal advice given’.
That position was seconded by Cllr Hugh Jones, again based off the legal advice presented.
The Executive Board unanimously supported that move, with the Motion moved to Part 2 and item 17 on the agenda.
Wrexham.com will be asked to leave the meeting at that point so we will be unable to report if the Motion will have to have a proposer and seconder from the Executive Board to be heard, or will be allowed to be proposed from the floor, and if no proposer can be found if it is unheard.
Further if the motion is debated, the discussion can’t be reported, nor any vote or outcomes.
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