Wednesday, September 01, 2010


There's an important special meeting of Brigg Town Council tonight (Wed Sept 1) in the Angel Suite (7pm).
Following the usual 15-minute period set aside for public question time (if any), the formal part of the meeting will get under way with the very likely exclusion of the press and public.
Whether that happens or not, town councillors will then consider North Lincolnshire Council's decision to sell the freehold of the Manley Gardens fishing pond (and associated public space) by informal tender, through the receipt of sealed offers.
Our councillors will also consider the request for support from Brigg Syndicate Angling Club in its bid to purchase the facility, as the tenant for more than 40 years, "in order to secure its continued use as a fishing pond and public open space for the benefit of the community."
Exclusion of the press and public doesn't always happen, but it almost always does. There has to be a vote by councillors with a majority in favour for exclusion to take place. I can quote only a few examples from meetings over more than 30 years (town/parish and borough councils) where such a vote has resulted in the public being allowed to stay, for it's rare. Even more so when finances are involved.
Sometimes before we get to the voting stage I will get up from the press table and announce to the chairman of the meeting that I am excluding myself under the terms of the Local Government Act 1972 (that's the bit of legislation public bodies need to invoke). This will be when I've absolutely no interest in what's to follow.
Brigg Town Council has always accepted requests from the press (eg myself) to switch "confidential" items on the agenda so we (I) don't have to hang about outside the meeting and return later. They will ensure such matters go to the end of the list (as is the case tonight).
The press and public's right to be informed of, and attend, all committee and "full council" meetings of every local authority came as late as 1960 with the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act. That was the brainchild of a certain backbench Conservative MP with Lincolnshire links by the name of Margaret Thatcher, to whom pressmen/women should be forever grateful, though only a handful of anorak-types like "yours truly" will be aware of her contribution to democracy.
The 1972 Act extended such rights to include sub-committee meetings and joint meetings of authorities (eg our own local 3Bs Project).
Here endeth the lesson!

Local colleges reading this, I've got a bit of time coming up after the cricket season finishes in mid-September if you want your media/journalism students to benefit from this in-depth (or sad!) knowledge of newspaper law. Test cases can be included at no extra charge, including the one involving the top amateur golfer of the early 20th century who gained damages after being depicted in an advert with a certain bar of chocolate sticking out of his pocket. This was taken to suggest he had compromised his amateur status, as right-thinking folk would assume he'd been paid to appear, which he hadn't.

1 comment:

Ken Harrison said...

Blinkin' heck, Nige...I didn't know pressing the council for a few lines was so complicated.
If they're going to talk about the
fishing pond, it could be a good de-bait and you may get cast out, Nige.
What do you think the net result will be, Sribs?