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Future Access to BPC Public Information

Posted on 11th February, 2016

There was a long and insightful full council meeting on Monday 8 Feb 2016.

 

The following blog only relates to the publication of, and access to, BPC agenda and minutes. In particular the outcome of the BPC extraordinary council meeting of 4 Feb 'to consider the on-going relationship between the Council and a parishioner' i.e. the Bleadon BOB community website, which the public including us were excluded from attending.

 

The full council meeting on Mon 8 Feb 2016 was chaired by Cllr Hartree. He informed all attending that Chairman Ian Gibson had resigned as councillor following the extraordinary meeting, citing the council being deeply divided as a factor. The five councillors present then voted on a new Chair, and after a divided vote, Cllr Hartree used his casting vote as acting chairman and he was elected as chairman of Bleadon Parish Council.

 

Cllr Hartree read out the long resolution that was made at the extraordinary meeting last Thursday 4 Feb. There was no written information regarding the resolution for the councillors or public to read, and we/BOB had not received any feedback prior to the meeting, so Cllr Gutsell kindly asked for it to be read out again, assisting everyone present. In essence it relates to all of us in that,

with regards to access to minutes and agenda Bleadon BOB will be treated as any other resident and therefore will not be sent the agenda/minutes by email. These documents would be available on the BPC website.

BOB has fought for timely access to BPC public information on behalf of the Bleadon community for many years, so being treated as any other resident is not an issue. For, example this whole issue requiring an extraordinary meeting has occurred because at the end of last year BOB raised a problem with the timing of the agenda/minutes resulting from the new Clerk/BPC proposed process. The current BPC finally agreed to recontinue publishing minutes prior to meetings, just as the previous PC and Clerk did for many years. (See previous blogs and 14 Dec 2015 minutes under AOB).

 

What still hasn't been answered satisfactorily though is how will anyone know when they are published i.e. why can't the public, including BOB, continue to be notified when the agenda/minutes become available? For over two years, until the above problem, BPC offered everyone a service to automatically receive an email from the Clerk containing the agenda/minutes as soon as they were available. Bleadon residents, BOB, village groups, etc. as well as other organisations such as the police, NS councillors, The Mercury, etc. could request to be added or were on the email circulation list.

 

Who would have thought asking the current BPC to continue to deliver previous minutes before the next meeting; and to continue to automatically inform BOB when they were available could have led to these events. As Cllr Clarke indicated in her comments, all this for asking for one address to be put back on an email circulation list.

 

Here are some observations from the full council meeting: 

  • Cllr Hartree stated concern about control of the BPC website and information.
  • Cllr Findlay indicated that minutes will be available on the BPC website no later than 7 days before a meeting, possibly sooner.
  • Cllr Gutsell asked how will people know if minutes were posted sooner, e.g. 10 days before meeting? Cllr Findlay replied that people would just have to keep checking the BPC website.
  • Cllr Clarke referred to the email service in Class 4 of the Publication Scheme in the Corporate Policy. Cllr Hartree said his interpretation was it didn't mean an ongoing email service (as used to date).
  • Cllr Gutsell and Cllr Clarke tried to support and promote a timely and communicative service for residents/BOB to receive the agenda/minutes. In the end the vote was divided and Cllr Hartree used his casting vote as Chairman. The resolution to effectively only allow residents/BOB ongoing access via the website, and not be notified via the automatic email service was passed.
  • What wasn't made clear however was whether the automatic email notification service has been stopped altogether. Has a two-tiered system now been created with residents having to manually and repeatedly check the website yet the police, NS councillors, press, etc. still being automatically emailed, i.e. receiving a better, more timely and communicative level of service than that offered residents?

From the above it seems that some councillors are intent on making the communication process between BPC and residents/BOB as time consuming as possible; and with all of us supposedly being equal also making it difficult for the police, press, etc. as well.

 

The purpose of the Information Commissioners Office Model Publication Scheme is to assist every public authority under the Freedom of Information Act, to make the maximum amount of information readily available at minimum inconvenience and cost to the public. The current BPC adopted Publication Scheme within the BPC Corporate Policy, was/is based on this model and was set up following the Localism Act by the previous qualified Clerk and is based on this downloadable template from the ICO.

 

So, rather than you having to repeatedly visit the BPC website to see if the agenda or minutes have been published (as suggested by Cllr Findlay), BOB will do this for you. We will let you know when they are made available, as we currently do, thus saving you all the time and effort.

 

Please continue to send us your comments and feedback and let us know of anything you'd like us to raise within our community. You can also contact your parish council via the Clerk!

 

For background correspondence to this issue please see comment section below and these previous blogs:

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Comments (3)

your blog made interesting reading. It’s frustrating to think that these councillors are representing the people of Bleadon but we are not allowed to know what they are discussing. What a farce.......
Thanks for keeping us up to date, I wish committees would remind themselves why they are there, and that they are representatives
FYI. Email Correspondence posted below regarding 20 Jan 2016 meeting of BOB and BPC Cllrs (notes posted on previous blog), prior to BPC publication of 11 January 2016 minutes on BPC website on 25 Jan 2016 and prior to extraordinary meeting 4 Feb 2016
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On Saturday, 23 January 2016, 13:31, Bleadon BOB <bleadon@live.co.uk> wrote:

Hi Steve/Ian,

I'm sorry to say that we are disappointed with your reply in light of the meeting being about increased communication/common ground between the PC and BOB; and also the PC and Bleadon public. We therefore thought that the notes reflected this discussion and hence the 'Potential Way Forward' as opposed to definitive agreed actions. So in good faith we have produced these notes and forwarded Ian the Parish Plan information as discussed.

To avoid lengthy email communication we feel that there are four main, PC to public communication, questions:

1. How do members of the public know when items have been posted on the PC website to look at? Even if the website has every document to date on it as of today, how will the public know that new agenda/minutes/etc. have been posted in the future?

2. When the clerk tells councillors, North Somerset, Mercury and Police that new documentation (agenda/minutes) is available why not also tell BOB at the same time, so that we can inform residents to go look at the PC website? This was the original process which worked for over two years with no problems i.e. when there was and wasn't a PC website. This would assist Ian's aim of more public engagement at meetings and point people at the source of PC information as we did before.

3. Is it a full council decision that the clerk is NOT allowed to send members of the public notification when electronic information is available and that they have to guess? If so, why? If there is a public notification process similar to the one above in point 2., please can you let us know what it is?

4. If it has been resolved/minuted by the PC that the .gov.uk domain stops and the council is moving to Freeola this implies a new website development is planned. When is this planned?

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Chris and Jo
email: bob@bleadon.org.uk
web: www.bleadon.org.uk
twitter: @bleadon
facebook: BleadonBOB
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Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:47:02 +0000
From: stevenhartree194@btinternet.com
To: bleadon@live.co.uk
CC: igibson6@sky.com
Subject: Re: Meeting and notes

Dear Chris,
Thanks for the most helpful notes of our meeting - appreciated by Ian and myself.
There is only one specific point Ian and I would wish you to amend: uder the final heading "Potential Way Forward", 2nd point:
we cannot recall agreeing, at this stage, to include BOB on the Clerk's electronic information mailing list as the information BOB may well require will be on the Parish Council web site. Perhaps you would be good enough t amend your meeting notes - thanks.
I'm sure that this matter will be discussed further by the Parish Council, and will form a part of the future discussions with the Clerk.
Best wishes,
Steve
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On Thursday, 21 January 2016, 11:59, Bleadon BOB <bleadon@live.co.uk> wrote:

Dear Ian and Steve,

Many thanks for arranging the meeting and venue yesterday. Jo and I both felt that it was productive and may lead to future progress on improving the efficiency and currency of Bleadon parish communications and information, we hope you did too.

Please find attached a copy of 'rough notes' taken by Jo at the meeting for our future reference and actions, hopefully you agree they reflect our discussions but please advise if not or if they require further amplification and we will amend accordingly.

We look forward to hearing from you soon on the further way forward.

Kind regards,

Chris Butler
email: bob@bleadon.org.uk
web: www.bleadon.org.uk
twitter: @bleadon
facebook: BleadonBOB