Manchester City Council has upheld a complaint about the behaviour of the Chair of Planning and Highways Committee and a senior officer. At the October 2019 meeting of the Planning Committee, its chair, Councillor Basil Curley (Labour, Charleston) and a senior officer, Julie Roscoe, both made statements to the assembled public about who was allowed to film what which were simply incorrect. That has now been acknowledged by Eddie Smith, the (outgoing) Strategic Director for the Growth & Development directorate (2), who handled the complaint. Further, he has stated that he will ensure that
“All current Elected Members of the Council will be written to reminding them of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 and the definition of “Reporting” as stated above. Familiarisation with the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 will be enshrined in to our Member Training Programme for new Elected Members;”
“The City Solicitor will write to all senior officers within the Council’s Senior Leadership Group (circa 130 staff) reminding them of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 and the definition of “Reporting” as stated above;”
The October 2019 meeting of the Planning Committee was particularly well-attended, because the vote on the Great Ancoats St Retail Park car park was held. One member of the committee, Councillor John Flanagan (Labour, Miles Platting and Newton Heath), alerted the Chair to the existence of many children – brought by their parents – to the meeting. This led to a series of factually incorrect statements being made by the Chair, and further factually incorrect statements being made by an officer (Julie Roscoe) as to who could film what with what permission. (You can watch the whole sorry thing here).
The editor of Manchester Climate Monthly, upon checking who could film what, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request asking what training was offered to chairs and officers and what sanctions were in place and whether any remedial training was being discussed. The answers was none, none and nope.
Only then was a complaint about the member and officer submitted.
On this occasion (but not on another – watch this space), there seems to be some outcome – even if the member and officer are not disciplined (which is not particularly interesting in this case, imo) – there will, finally be some sort of commitment to reminding members and officers that citizens have rights, and are not sheep.
(1) Manchester City Council is made up of 96 elected members (currently 93 Labour, 3 Lib Dem), and has 6000 staff, including a “Senior Leadership Group” of around 130 staff. There are six scrutiny committees, which are there to keep tabs on what the 10 member Executive and senior officers do. These are made up of “back bench” councillors. There are also regulatory committees, which make decisions on planning applications, licensing applications and so on. Planning is one of these. It meets in public. AND YOU CAN FILM THE DAMN MEETINGS WITHOUT ASKING ANYONE’S PERMISSION. AND I THINK YOU SHOULD, ON GENERAL PRINCIPLES.
(2) Manchester City Council has seven directorates (think of them as a bit like “Departments” at the Westminster level, though the analogy is shaky). They are core (not city solicitor), core – city solicitor, adult services, children’s services, population and well-being, growth and development and our personal favourite – Neighbourhoods.
The heads of each of these seven, along with the chief exec, make up the “Strategic Management Team”.
Fun fact: Until very recently, and after prolonged FOIAing and chivvying, these eight had not done their carbon literacy training. They have now, but a couple of the top bods are leaving, so it will be entertaining to see if/when the new bods do their training… I feel a FOIA coming on….