Exclusion of Press and Public
To consider excluding the public and press from the meeting during consideration of Annex 1 of agenda item 5 on the grounds that it contains information relating to individuals. This information is classed as exempt under Paragraphs 1 & 2 of Schedule 12A to Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local Government (Access to information) (Variation) Order 2006.
Members were asked to consider excluding the public and press from the meeting during consideration of Annex 1 of agenda item 5 on the grounds of containing information relating to individuals. This information is classed as exempt under Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 12A to Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.
The Monitoring Officer was asked to explain the reasons why the committee was being asked to consider excluding the public and press during consideration of the annex. He explained that it was the view of officers that the annex satisfied the requirement of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 12A to Section 100A of the Local Government Act (information relating to any individual and information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual). These exemptions were subject to a public interest test but it was the view of officers that the information that had already been published by the Council met the requirement of the public interest test. In reaching this conclusion, regard had also been taken of guidance produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office in which there was a strong expectation of privacy and consideration of the impact on individuals. Members’ attention was drawn to the extreme level of attacks on the individuals concerned on social media. The press had published extracts of the report but consideration should be taken as to the impact and damage to individuals if additional information was made public. The Monitoring Officer asked that Members also considered the significant risk for future internal audits, as if such information were to be made public, contributors to audits may be much more circumspect.
Councillor Flinders moved, and Councillor Barnes seconded a proposal that the public and press be excluded from the meeting during consideration of Annex 1 of agenda item 5. On being put to the vote the proposal was lost.
Those Members who had voted against the proposal were asked by officers to give their rationale for having voted not to exclude the press and public during consideration of Annex 1 in view of the possibility of a civil claim or investigation by the ICO. Having discussed the rationale for this request Members gave the following reasons:
· It was in the public interest for the press and public not to be excluded during consideration of the annex.
· Whilst there was a duty to protect employees, the vast majority of staff would be tarred by secrecy and wrong-doing.
· The report did not name individuals and the information had been redacted so as not to identify individuals.
· Greater identification of individuals was already available, for example through Freedom of Information requests that were in the public domain.
· The report should not have been exempt when published.
· The report could be discussed without reference to individuals.
There followed a discussion about the consequences and risks of this decision.
In view of the further discussion that had taken place, a further vote was taken and it was
Resolved: That the press and public not be excluded from the meeting during consideration of Annex 1 of agenda item 5.
The Chair announced that, in view of the advice given by officers and the risks to the Council in making the annex public, he intended to vacate the Chair and leave the meeting. The Vice-Chair took the Chair.
Mr Bateman drew attention to the fact that the independent members of the committee did not have voting rights and suggested that, in light of the discussions that had taken place, clarity on the role and status of the independent members should be sought outside of the meeting.