Jo has written to East Dunbartonshire Council calling into question inconsistencies in the Council’s account of its secret meeting on Kilmardinny.
In a letter to East Dunbartonshire Council’s Chief Executive Gerry Cornes, Jo Swinson has asked why the Council is giving mixed messages on last week’s secret meeting on the Kilmardinny development.
Last week, Jo questioned why the meeting, where the Labour-Tory administration voted to approve the unpopular CALA and Stewart Milne proposals, was not publicised as Council procedure requires. She said the Council had broken its own standing orders by not giving 3 days notice of the meeting and making the agenda publicly available at Tom Johnston House.
Council officials admitted in a phone call to Jo Swinson last week that the meeting had not been publicised, but the Council has told the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald that public notice of the meeting was given.
Commenting, Jo said:
“Last week the Council told me that the agenda for the 4th February meeting was not made public because it was a private meeting, but Council rules say that the agenda should still be made public. Then I was told it was a continuation of the Council’s previous meeting on 21st January, but the papers for the 4th February meeting clearly state that it was a Special Meeting, which the previous one was not.
“Now the Council is claiming that the notice and agenda for the meeting were publicly available, but staff at Tom Johnston House knew nothing about it on the day of the meeting and had no agenda to show.
“This is beginning to look like some kind of cover-up. If, as it appears, the Council did not follow its own rules in making the public aware that the meeting was happening, then can the vote that was taken really be considered legitimate?”
The text of Jo’s letter to the Chief Executive of East Dunbartonshire Council appears below.
East Dunbartonshire Council
Tom Johnston House
12th February 2010
Dear Mr. Cornes
As you will be aware, I raised concerns with your office in the morning of Thursday 4th February 2010 regarding the meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council that evening at which the matter of the CALA Management and Stewart Milne Holdings development of Kilmardinny was to be discussed and voted on.
My concerns are the following:
The Council’s standing orders (point 6a) require notice of each meeting of the Council to be posted at Tom Johnston House at least three days in advance of the meeting. However, a member of my staff went to Tom Johnston House on the morning of 4th February and there was no such notice, and staff were unable to give any information on the meeting.
The Council’s standing orders (point 9) state that “the Agenda Papers and Background Papers (except those items of business to be transacted in private) shall be open for inspection at Tom Johnston House by any member of the public”. The Council has told the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald that this procedure was followed, however if the papers were available then Council staff should have been able to tell members of the public where they were, but they had no knowledge of them.
While the agenda for Council meetings is usually circulated to all local elected representatives, including myself and local MSPs, and to the local press, this did not happen in this case, despite my name appearing on the distribution list. The meeting did not appear on the Council’s online meeting diary.
I called your office on the morning of 4th February to raise these issues, and received a call back from June Day in Diane Campbell’s office, who told me that the meeting was not publicised because it was a private meeting. I pointed out that notice of the meeting and its agenda should still be in the public domain, even if the meeting itself was not open to the public. Ms Day then told me that the meeting was a continuation of the meeting on 21st January, therefore additional notice did not need to be given. However, I pointed out that the issue of the Kilmardinny development was not included on the agenda for the 21st January meeting, and that there was still a separate agenda produced for the 4th February meeting, which should have been published. I was told I would receive a further call back on this point, but have heard nothing further to date. The agenda for the 4th February meeting clearly indicates that it was a special meeting (as per point 3 of the standing orders), which the 21st January meeting was not, therefore it cannot have been a continuation of the same meeting.
The Kilmardinny development is a matter of huge public interest and has caused a great deal of public controversy and debate. Even though last week’s meeting was held in private, East Dunbartonshire residents had a right to know that the matter was being discussed, and it is deeply concerning to see that the standards of openness and transparency which are demanded by the Council’s standing orders, and indeed by the principles of democracy, have not been met. I am also particularly concerned that the Council has now told the local press that the meeting was publicised in the usual way, despite Diane Campbell’s office having clearly acknowledged to me that this was not the case.
Given that the Council’s standing orders were not followed in publicising the meeting, this raises important questions about the legitimacy of the meeting and indeed the vote which was taken. I would be grateful if you would tell me what procedure should be followed if it becomes clear that the standing orders have been breached, and whether decisions take at the meeting in question can be considered legitimate.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter and please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to discuss this further.
Jo Swinson MP