ITEM 8 on the Mid Devon District Council Standards Committee Agenda of March 13, 2024, dealt with proposed amendments to the Constitution which were viewed by myself, and other interested members of the public, as being designed to restrict Public involvement with some areas of Council Business.

Prior to the meeting I submitted an eight-page document to each member of the committee raising questions as to the proposals set out in the appendix to the document.

Two specific issues raised were in relation to the proposals to restrict publication of Notices of Meetings and Notice of Key Decisions to just the Council website.

It was pointed out that this was not in accord with Local Government Legislation and raised the questions – “Could written evidence of the legislative permission of this proposal be provided please?”  I also asked – “Would such a decision breach any Discrimination or Equalities legislation?”

A few hours before the meeting commenced an amended set of proposals was sent to all members of the Committee and members of the public who had registered to speak. 

At least one public member had not seen the revision when he turned up at the meeting to ask questions on this item. The proposed changes to the intended publication of notices had been removed without explanation.

At the meeting I asked a number of questions one of which was: “It is noted that the sections have been removed in relation to Notices of Meetings and Publication of the Notice of Key Decisions. Why has this been done and who made the decision?”

Another member of the Public also asked “What specific piece of legislation allows Meeting, and Key Decision, Notices not to be published at Phoenix House?”.

A fortnight after the meeting I received answers to my questions, which is shown as coming from the Leader of the Council who said: “This question is no longer relevant as the proposed changes have been amended. It is proposed that the constitution is amended for these documents so that they are published both on the website and at Phoenix House.”  The other questioner was also sidestepped.

The fact that the proposal was removed seems to confirm the view that what the Leader and District Solicitor originally recommended to Cabinet was illegal.  The amendments in the revised document, where the “tracked changes” had been left, had been made by “The District Solicitor”!

It would therefore appear that for a member of the public to seek the truth is irrelevant in the eyes of the Leader of the Council.

It seems that he prefers to dodge the issue and save Officer “face” rather than to properly answer questions from the public that might show the truth.

Barry Warren

Cherry Close

Willand Old Village