Monday, 29 November 2010

Budget (meeting) cancelled

News is trickling through that tomorrow's full council budget meeting has been cancelled. This was the meeting where councillors were being asked to vote on the cuts package promoted by the Conservative led administration.

It's a shame that the decision has been taken so late in the day when many local residents have taken time off work to come and lobby councillors over the threats to local services. But if conditions are sufficiently unsafe to make driving hazardous then it is the right decision to make.

And so we await a new date. We know that the Council Leader wants to meeting to happen as soon as possible claiming that the Council will lose millions of pounds if the budget is not put through immediately. However there are the competing pressures of the constitution and the local government settlement.

Our constitution states that if a meeting is cancelled then the procedure for calling a new one takes a week or so. The local govt settlement details are due out in about 10 days time - at which point we will know precisely what budget pressures Cornwall faces. There has been some debate already about why the council is meeting just 10 days before the picture becomes a lot clearer. If the reconvened meeting happens just two or three days before the announcement then it would make no sense whatsoever.


John said...

Having read Graham Smith's blog on this there is a point here that seems to have been missed. Having had a look at the Council’s constitution I cannot see any provision which allows the Chairman to cancel a Council meeting once it has been called and notified to all concerned but before it has taken place. There does there seem to be any provision in the Local Government Act 1972 which allows this. If bad weather prevents councillors attending a meeting then either it will be not be quorate if less than a quarter of councillors (31) attend, or it will be quorate and can proceed. You cannot tell until the start of the meeting tomorrow morning. If the meeting is not quorate the Council’s constitution (paragraph 8) says “the meeting shall stand adjourned to a time and date to be fixed by the Chairman”. If it is quorate ( least 31 councillors are there) then it can deal with the emergency budget. It would, however, be open to the meeting to pass a decision to adjourn if it was felt that, even though quorate, it was unfair to proceed if a large number of councillors could not be there (paragraph 13(l) of the Constitution). There is therefore a serious question about the legality of what is being done here.

Is this really about getting in the vote?

John said...

Looking at this further, it is clear the Council meeting tomorrow has not legally been cancelled, and indeed cannot be. Therefore, if at least 31 councillors turn up at County Hall tomorrow morning at 10.30 p.m. there will be a properly convened quorate Council meeting which can deal with the business on the agenda, the Emergency Budget. If the Chairman and Vice Chairman are not there councillors present could elect a Chairman for the day as allowed by Paragraph 2.1(i) of Council Procedure Rules (Constitution)

Is anybody up for it I wonder? Could a different budget to that proposed be passed?