Chief Executive Answering a Member’s Question at Full Council

The request was successful.

Ge off Pickering

Dear Scarborough Borough Council,

There are certain principles of governance to which all Local Authorities must adhere. These are set down in law and Councils are required to transcribe them into their Constitutions.

Amongst these are the following requirements;

Officers must remain politically neutral and support all members of the Council equally.

That certain Officer positions, such as the Directorate and Chief Officer, are politically restricted.

That Officers may not take part in political meetings.

Officers cannot be Members of the Council they work for.

The role of the Chief Executive when attending meetings of the Council is as Clerk to the Council, advising the Chairman on Constitutional procedure and officiating as ‘Returning Officer’ during any votes.
These provisions are vital to the separation of the political and operational functions of a Council and to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability.

At the meeting of the Council held on 14th May 2018, Cllr Vanda Inman asked a question of the Portfolio Holder for Legal & Governance, Councillor John Nock (whose remit includes the Legal Services department), a question in relation to the powers held by the Council with regard to the prohibition of any given Councillor from attendance at meetings.

This question was raised under the provision of Article 11.2 of the Scarborough Borough Council Constitution.

This rule allows a question to be asked only of the Mayor, a Member of Cabinet or the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee.

Article 11.4 sets out the only possible forms of response to Article 11.2 questions, these being:

An oral answer;
Reference to a publication;
A written answer;
A refusal to answer, or
Nomination of another MEMBER to answer (who may also refuse to answer).

Questions to Officers are therefore not permitted under these rules, nor may Officers reply to the questions, because:

a response from an Officer is not included in the prescribed forms of reply;

Officers are not, and cannot, be Members of the Council;

a formal Meeting of the Council is political; and

questioning the Mayor, Executive and Committee Chairman is, ipso facto, political activity.

It was, therefore, surprising that the Chief Executive answered the question, instead of the Member to whom the question had been addressed - or a nominated substitute Member.

As I can find no rule or provision within the Councils Constitution I request that you provide me with the following information:

1) Under what Constitutional provision did the Chief Executive respond to the Councillor's question?

2) If no such provision exists, which Officers/Members are responsible for reporting the irregularity?

3) Has the irregularity been reported; and, if so, has a formal investigation been instigated?

4) Where an irregularity involves the Chief Executive, what provision is adopted to distance the Chief Executive from the investigation, thus to ensure that such investigation is not susceptible to undue influence.

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Pickering

Ge off Pickering

Dear Scarborough Borough Council,
I have not received an acknowledgement of this FOI could you please let me know the status of the request

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Pickering

FOI, Scarborough Borough Council

Dear Mr Pickering

 

Email Address: [email address]

FOI Request Reference: FOIA5878 - Chief Executive answering a Member's
question at Full Council

Thank you for your written communication of 09/06/2018

Your request has been referred to the responsible officer and a response
should be made within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days from the
date of receipt.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, we
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Please ensure that any further communication in relation to this matter is
sent by you to the Freedom of Information Officer at the below address
quoting the reference FOIA5878 in all communications.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Officer

 

Freedom of Information Officer

Legal and Democratic Services

Scarborough Borough Council

e:  [1][Scarborough Borough Council request email]

t: 01723 232323

f: 0870 2384159

w:  [2]www.scarborough.gov.uk

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Petra Jackson, Scarborough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Pickering

 

Please find attached response to your request for information under the
FOIA

 

Kind regards

 

Petra Jackson

Performance and Admin Manager, Scarborough Borough Council

e: [1][email address]  |  t: 01723 383528

w: www.scarborough.gov.uk

 

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For information about how we process data please see our Privacy Notice at [2]www.scarborough.gov.uk/gdpr
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Petra Jackson, Scarborough Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Pickering

 

Please find attached response to your request for information under the
FOIA

 

Kind regards

 

Petra Jackson

Performance and Admin Manager, Scarborough Borough Council

e: [1][email address]  |  t: 01723 383528

w: www.scarborough.gov.uk

 

DISCLAIMER
This email (and any files transmitted with it) may contain confidential or privileged information and is intended for the addressee only. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or any action taken is prohibited and may be unlawful - you should therefore return the email to the sender and delete it from your system.
For information about how we process data please see our Privacy Notice at [2]www.scarborough.gov.uk/gdpr
Any opinions expressed are those of the author of the email, and do not necessarily reflect those of Scarborough Borough Council.
Please note: Incoming and outgoing email messages are routinely monitored for compliance with our policy on the use of electronic communications.
This email has been checked for the presence of computer viruses, but please rely on your own virus-checking procedures.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/gdpr

Ge off Pickering

Dear Petra Jackson,

Thank you for your response.
You cite Article 5.1 as being the constitutional arrangement by which the Chief Executive can answer a political question on behalf of the Elected cabinet member responsible for providing the answerer.
specifically that the Mayor invited him to do so.

This is unsatisfactory in that the article reference stated does not provide the constitutional authority requested for the Chief Executives intervention.

5.1 gives the Mayor the role of presiding over the meeting and in particular charges the post holder to uphold the Constitution with advice from officers.
The mayor has no authority under this Article to act outside the Constitution, in particular the breach of the constitution allowing a non prescribed response to questions in fact he has a specific duty to uphold it.
It also places a duty on the Mayor to ensure that Members can hold the Executive to account. The intervention in asking the Chief Executive to speak specifically prevented this for happening and is an extremely serious breach of the Mayoral duties.

The Mayor has no powers under clause 5.1 to ask the Chief Executive to respond.

In fact under this Article provision it is clear that the Mayor has failed in his duty to uphold the Constitution. as have the Chief Executive and the Legal Officer and other senior officers present , failed in their duty to advise the Mayor that such a response was beyond their powers.
You have also failed to identify the officers with specific responsibility in this matter. This information is not exempt and is still required.

I assume therefore that as this response implicates the Mayor and Senior officers in further Constitutional breaches that you have provided this clause in error and therefore ask for an internal review into this response so that you can provide the correct constitutional authority requested along with the omitted information.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Pickering

FOI, Scarborough Borough Council

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Pickering

 

Please find attached response to your request for an internal review of
your FOIA request

 

Kind regards

 

FOI Officer

Scarborough Borough Council

e: [1][Scarborough Borough Council request email] | t: 01723 232323 | w:
[2]www.scarborough.gov.uk     

 

Office: Town Hall, St Nicholas Street, Scarborough, YO11 2HG

Business Hours: 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, excluding bank holidays

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER
This email (and any files transmitted with it) may contain confidential or privileged information and is intended for the addressee only. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or any action taken is prohibited and may be unlawful - you should therefore return the email to the sender and delete it from your system.
For information about how we process data please see our Privacy Notice at [3]www.scarborough.gov.uk/gdpr
Any opinions expressed are those of the author of the email, and do not necessarily reflect those of Scarborough Borough Council.
Please note: Incoming and outgoing email messages are routinely monitored for compliance with our policy on the use of electronic communications.
This email has been checked for the presence of computer viruses, but please rely on your own virus-checking procedures.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Scarborough Borough Council request email]
2. http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/
3. http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/gdpr

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