Saturday, 28 May 2011
Tory group leader Peter Abraham has been around the council chamber for many years now. Long enough to know the council's constitution backwards, and quick to remind his colleagues of it whenever they threaten to stray from doing things strictly by the book. More than once I've seen him reminding fellow-councillors that the public will judge them by the way they conduct themselves, and that all too often it leaves a lot to be desired. Amen to that.
Peter will certainly be well aware of the rules governing councillors who might be thought to have 'predetermined' views on the decisions they take on the council's regulatory committees, like those dealing with development control. So when he comes to chair the Public Rights of Way & Greens Committee on June 16th, he'll want to ensure that such a sensitive decision (whether to register land at Ashton Vale as a Town Green) is beyond any possible reproach.
He could start by reminding members of Part 5 of the City Council constitution:
"Members who sit on a development control committee must be careful not to fetter their discretion and by consequence their ability to take part in a planning decision. Members would fetter their discretion if, for example, they made up their minds, or clearly appear to make up their minds ...... on how they intended to vote on a planning matter prior to the development control committee’s consideration of the matter and the hearing of the evidence and arguments from all the parties."
If that doesn't sink in, he could add that
"If such a member fetters his/her discretion then that member will put the Council at risk of legal proceedings on the grounds of bias, predetermination or a failure to take into account all the factors to enable the proposal to be considered on its own merits and/or a finding of maladministration by the ombudsman."
Of course, if he'd come across a piece in the Evening Post earlier this month, attributing to one of his committee members the words:
"My personal view is that I am convinced we should reject the inspector's advice. I don't think this qualifies as a town green and it brings the process into disrepute."
then he might make a special effort to make sure that his committee's decision wasn't put at risk by the self-evident pre-judice of that member.