In England only, the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 – Statutory Instrument 2014/2095 (hereafter the Regs) amended s1 of the 1960 Act with effect from 6thAugust 2014. Three and half years on Shepway District Council’s (SDC) Constitution Part 5 pg 5/21 and Part 6 pg 6/14 have not changed to reflect the law of the land. SDC’s Constitution does not of course supersede Statutory legislation.
The Regs relate to the filming, recording and photographing at open public council meetings whether they be County, District, Town or Parish. SDC’s Constitution Part 6 – page 6/14 states:
No prior notification under the Regs is necessary regardless of what SDC say or don’t say in their Constitution. Statutory legislation supersedes SDC’s Constitution. And you can hear below Alistair Stewart SDC’s Chief Executive inform a member of the public they need prior notification, when they do not. (From 40 seconds onwards)
The Constitution has been updated five times since August 6th 2014 times, first on the 12th January 2018, the 9th June 2017 the 9th June 2016 the 12th Oct 2015, and update on the 6th Jan 2015. Yet in three and half years not once has SDC amended their constitution to reflect the statutory legislation – that being: NO PRIOR NOTIFICATION IS NECESSARY – is SDC’s Constitution defying Parliament? Civil wars start like that for those of you who know your history.
Now the implications of not giving “prior notification” to The Head of Democratic Services – Amandeep Khroud (pictured) – who earned in 2016/17 £73,036 including pension contributions – who is also the council’s Monitoring Officer under section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and the Solicitor to the Council not applying Statutory legislation to the Constitution are immense. The fact the Constitution is wrong means Alistair Stewart, Chief Executive of SDC – who earned in 2016/17 £143,338 including pension contributions – is not ensuring that his Head of Democratic Services is doing their job properly, demonstrates he and they are not possibly up to the job or fit for purpose perhaps, you can decide that.
Just think of the Little Densole Farm Judicial Review or the forthcoming planning decision regarding Princes Parade, Otterpool Park, The Rec at Dymchurch and that’s not all. Just think they have prevented the filming, recording and photographing of anything to do with the money SDC are responsible for, all because the Head of Democratic Services is not doing her job and her boss is not checking she is.
SDC state in their Local_Code_of_Corporate_Governance_2017 (page 5):
5. We will ensure that the Council as a whole is open and accessible to the community, service users and staff and we are committed to openness and transparency in all dealings.
But SDC’s own constitution prevents members of the public from filming, recording and photographing their meetings without “prior notification” which is NOT the case, as we have said. SDC have for the last three and half years closed down democracy and denied each of us our natural democratic right to film, record and take photos at open SDC public meetings because their constitution is WRONG.
Hawkinge Town Council Standing Orders (page 4, L) make the same mistake as SDC and state that prior notification and consent is needed in writing – see below. This is wrong. Hawkinge Town Council Standing Orders do not supersede statutory legislation and must be amended.
The same is true of Dymchurch Parish Council – see below.
We have looked at Hythe Town Council’s Standing orders which according to their website have not been revised since April 2007. The Standing orders make no mention of filming, recording and taking photographs at their meeting. This is an omission, so is different from SDC’s, Hawkinge and Dymchurch’s cock up. The same is true of New Romney Town Council (correction – NRTC is compliant), Lydd Town Council though appear to have omitted the legislation from their Standing Orders. It may well be true for other Parish Councils in Shepway too. We have not checked all parish council’s, but you can ask your clerks and parish councillors to amend their standing orders to include the legislation or seek guidance from NALC or KALC.
Minutes of Council meetings are legal documents, so are audio recordings, filming and that might be a planning application you are making which is objected to by Cllrs, no record, no can appeal and reliance is placed upon their minutes.
The only two Town Council’s to have got it right is New Romney Town Council and Folkestone Town Council, where in their agenda of the 13th Nov 2014 at page 11 former Cllr Paul Marsh asked and was advised by the Town Clerk Jennifer Childs (pictured):
Thank god one town clerk is on the ball and know’s more than the Monitoring Officer and Solicitor of SDC and Chief Exec – Alistair Stewart of SDC (pictured).
So we ask you to write to amandeep dot khroud at shepway dot gov dot uk and alistair dot stewart at shepway dot gov dot uk asking them to amend the Constitution to reflect the fact NO PRIOR NOTIFICATION is necessary. We have provided two templates. One for SDC and the second to your town/parish council.
The Shepwayvox Team
PS main photo by Sara Rees – Democracy; exhibited at Arcade Cardiff, October 2012