Earlier today (Wednesday) former council leader, David Pugh, emailed all Isle of Wight councillors (also known as members) with details of a question he’d submitted for tonight’s full council meeting.
David tells members his question has been edited by the monitoring officer, as she felt the “opening narrative to it has been rejected as it is considered to be a statement”.
He has shared his email and the question in full with OnTheWight readers below. The paper David refers to can also be found at the bottom of the article.
Cllr Gilbey initially claimed he was sacked, only later did he change this to a claim that he resigned from the Island Independents. OnTheWight spoke to a senior member of the administration today who claimed that Cllr Gilbey still hasn’t officially tendered his resignation – Ed.
Email to members: 17 September 2014 10:29am
I have – as a resident of Shanklin – submitted a written public question to tonight’s Full Council meeting, on the subject of the Capital Contingency Report which went to the Executive last week.
My interest in this matter is simply as follows…. I am concerned that the plight of the residents of Rush Close (Shanklin) is being caught in the political crossfire of recent events and is at risk of not being given the proper consideration it deserves. My question raises serious concerns about the process on this matter to date, including the wider issues arising from the Capital Contingency Report – which I understand is now subject to a scrutiny call-in.
Whilst my question has been accepted, the Monitoring Officer has advised me that the opening narrative to it has been rejected as it is considered to be a statement. I take the view that this text provides a necessary introductory part of the question, in order to provide the full context that leads to it.
(As an aside, I recall that a detailed introductory narrative was generally permitted in the past when the Council considered questions from the likes of Mr Miller of Cowes. Nevertheless, I accept the Monitoring Officer’s position, particularly as she has advised me that “as always with a new / different administration some practices do change”, so I appreciate that a less generous / open approach may now be in place, in line with the Bell principles.)
I do, however, feel it is necessary to share with all members the introductory narrative to my question, in order that the full context of it is understood. Therefore please find attached my question to tonight’s Full Council meeting, complete with this introductory context. The Monitoring Officer has advised me that the final three paragraphs of the attached text will be considered as the question, so this is the only part you are likely to see / hear tonight.
Regrettably I am on the mainland this evening so cannot be in the public gallery at Full Council, but my submitted question will be asked on my behalf. I look forward to receiving the Leader’s response in due course.
As the fullness of the attached document’s content will not be placed on record, I will also be sharing it with the media, Shanklin Town Council and other interested parties.
Question to the Leader of the Council: Cllr Ian Stephens from Mr David Pugh
At last week’s meeting of the Council’s Executive, members considered the “Capital Programme Contingency Budget – Bids for Resources and Prioritisation of Key Capital Projects” report, which was published in the Leader’s name.
That report contained a section in paragraph 8, under the sub-heading “SHANKLIN RAILWAY CUTTING / RUSH CLOSE LANDSLIP” detailing that the Council “is currently considering whether there is any legal liability [in relation to the Rush Close landslip] prior to providing a report to the Executive in October”.
I understand from email correspondence that has recently been published – along with online comments made by two Executive members – that the wording contained in last week’s Executive report in relation to this item differs from what was originally intended to be published. Furthermore, I understand that the original wording in relation to this section had been approved by the then lead Executive Member – Cllr Jon Gilbey – and it was only when he and his colleague Cllr Richard Priest were not present at an informal Tuesday morning meeting of the Executive that other members of that committee agreed that any reference to Rush Close should be removed from the report, and asked the Head of Finance to make this change.
Irrespective of the potential liability (and resulting affordability) for the Council in relation to addressing the landslip at Rush Close, it is a matter of some concern that some members of the Executive decided – in a private meeting – to strike from the report any reference to Rush Close, as if it was an issue that was not worthy of their consideration. The Council’s Constitution is clear – in the section on Member Level Decisions (under the Council’s Decision Making Process) – that before a report is published the Council’s internal process must ensure “that all strategic, corporate, legal, financial, risk and other matters have been fully taken into account”. It is hard to comprehend that all matters (including potential legal and financial liabilities) could have been seen to be taken into account if one of previously stated liabilities was being consciously removed from the report at the arbitrary request of some Executive members.
If these Executive members had been successful in removing any reference to Rush Close from the report, this could have led to members making a decision to allocate capital funding to other schemes on the Island (such as the Undercliff in the Deputy Leader’s ward) without demonstrating to the public that they had had proper regard for other upcoming competing demands on the limited funds available in the capital contingency budget.
It is worth noting that it clearly would have been easier for Executive members to justify significant expenditure on initiatives such as the Undercliff if the report recommending this course of action did not acknowledge that such limited funds may also be needed to rectify problems of a similar nature elsewhere on the Island. This is undoubtedly something which the Deputy Leader would have been aware of when supporting the removal of the section about Rush Close from the report.I understand that officers subsequently insisted (undoubtedly because of the aforementioned constitutional requirement) that some revised wording on the issue of Rush Close was then reinserted into the report, as is evident in the published version. It does however appear that this would not have happened if those Executive members who agreed to remove the section on Rush Close from the report had had their way.
In light of all of this, I wish to ask the question set out below, which I ask the Leader to answer in line with the commitment in the Island Independents’ Framework to Change to “make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based”.
(Below this is the only section that has been allowed to be asked at the Full Council meeting this evening – Ed)
Given that a report on Rush Close is currently being prepared in advance of an Executive meeting on 7th October, and therefore timescales do not allow for information to be disclosed prior to then under the 20 working days provisions of the Freedom of the Information Act, a request for the timely disclosure of information is being made – through this question – directly to the Leader. This is so – given recent revelations – that such information can be shared with Rush Close residents in advance of October’s Executive meeting, to inform their consideration of the forthcoming papers and any representations they may wish to make in relation to it.
This question therefore requests the disclosure of the following paperwork:
- The original draft version of the Capital Programme Contingency Budget report, as signed off by Cllr Gilbey.
- The second draft version of the Capital Programme Contingency Budget report, as amended by members at an informal Executive meeting on a Tuesday morning.
- Any other variations on this report considered by members and officers prior to its final publication.
- Any email correspondence and notes of meetings which took place between members and officers in relation to the preparation and finalisation of this report.
Will the Leader agree to publish by this end of this week (19/09/14) the paperwork identified above, and will he also now advise exactly why he and members of his Executive felt it appropriate to seek to remove details of Rush Close from the proposed report, and is he confident that in doing so he and his Executive colleagues were (a) acting in a manner which was consistent with letter and spirit of the Council’s Constitution in this regard; and (b) demonstrating to the residents of Shanklin (and Rush Close in particular) that they were treating their concerns in a fair, equitable and proper manner, particularly given that taking such a step could work to the advantage (or be perceived to) of justifying expenditure on works of a similar nature in the Deputy Leader’s ward, and therefore is the Leader satisfied that this Executive member’s stance in supporting the removal of Rush Close from the report was not in any sense influenced by his desire to promote the interests of his own ward above those of others?
The paper in question