South Kesteven District Council: Meeting ends when officials realise public could not take part

  Posted: 22.05.20 at 12:46 by The Editor

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A council meeting was abandoned yesterday when officials realised it was not properly accessible to the public.

The move has led South Kesteven District Council to apologise for its error.

The Governance and Audit committee, which scrutinises the activities of the council, including related financial matters, began yesterday afternoon.

Like other recent council meetings, it was being held 'virtually' due to the pandemic.

Notices with details of the meeting agenda were placed on the SKDC website stating the meeting would be held by remote conferencing using Skype for Business and 'joining details will follow'.

The meeting had just begun when Coun Ashley Baxter asked for clarification of whether the joining details had actually been published and, if they hadn't, whether the meeting was legally sound.

Coun Baxter (Ind- Market and West Deeping) told Nub News this led to an adjournment of around ten minutes while council officers inspected the website.

"When the meeting resumed it was confirmed that the 'joining details' had not been published and therefore members of the public would not be able to view the meeting as they were entitled.

"Consequently, the meeting was adjourned until a new date and time could be agreed and published."

Coun Baxter commented: "I am sure the adjournment was due to an innocent administrative oversight and you have to sympathise with our council officers who have had a lot on their plates lately.

"However, the council has to remain open and transparent and meetings must not take place behind closed doors without very good reason. Consequently, if the public cannot attend the virtual meetings, they should not go ahead".

He continued: "It's a bit of a nuisance really because the Committee was due to hear some very important reports from our external and internal auditors.

"Questions would have been asked about the lack of transparency in our procurement processes and the lack of consistency with regard to homelessness. Those questions will now have to wait for another day".

SKDC has issued an apology for the mistake which prevented the public from taking part in the meeting, leading it to be 'postponed.'

The council statement continued: "The council has been using a new system in order to enable Full Council and committee meetings to take place virtually during the Coronavirus pandemic.

"Part of that process means that different links need to be provided to members, staff and the public so that they can access the meeting.

"The link to the public wasn’t published, therefore, the council has postponed the meeting so that this can be rectified. The council apologises to any members of the public who wanted to listen/watch today’s committee meeting, and this meeting will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

"As with any new process, there are inevitable glitches and lessons to be learned. The process is already being revised to avoid this happening again.

The statement added: "The Council has successfully held a number of virtual committee meetings and was one of the first in the country to hold a virtual Full Council meeting attended by all but one of its members.

"We are incredibly grateful to all our residents for the overwhelming support our staff have received as we seek to maintain our critical services and ensure our processes are open and transparent.”

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