Thursday, 17 March 2011

Absent without leave - take 2

Tonight was our final CWaC Council meeting before our local elections on 5 May.

The Labour party had tabled a tendentious motion regarding the sale of the former County Hall to Chester University.  The District Auditor has produced two reports - one on the sale of County Hall and a second one on the acquisition by CWaC of the HQ building.  Both District Auditor reports can be viewed via the CWaC website if you dig out the most recent Audit & Governance Committee meeting.

Having read these reports I am delighted to observe that the District Auditor recognised that both the sale and purchase represented good value for money and that the processes followed were appropriate although they could have been improved regarding public consultation.  That said the District Auditor did note the difficulty in squaring such consultations with fast paced commercial negotiations.

So, the Labour party tabled a motion ostensibly based on the District Auditor reports - however the language used was highly critical and officer advice was that their motion was defamatory.  The Labour Group were apparently advised by the Borough Solicitor that their motion was factually incorrect and defamatory - however notwithstanding this advice they refused to withdraw or amend their motion.

The Council's standing orders provide that a motion does not have to be debated by Council.  One option is that it could be referred to the Executive.  The Council resolved that it did not want to have this debate nor did it want to refer the matter elsewhere.

This prompted the Labour party to walk out.

We had a quieter, swifter Council meeting without the Labour party.  It is a shame they didn't take the advice they had been given.  It is a matter of regret that they chose to frame their motion in such a way as to provoke concern.  It is a negation of their duty to the communities they represent that they chose to absent themselves.