Key City of York Council meetings due to take place this week have been postponed after it emerged they would have taken place illegally if they had been allowed to go ahead.
Meetings of the executive committee and full council, where councillors were set to discuss the devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire, has been delayed due to “human error” after the council failed to advertise it on its public noticeboard.
The proposed deal, the biggest change to local government in the region in decades, is said to be worth £750m to the city.
Planning Committee B, which was due to take place on Monday (September 26), has also been postponed.
The council’s meetings calendar had already been significantly disrupted after all public meetings were postponed for a week following the announcement of the Queen’s death.
Democracy campaigner Gwen Swinburn raised the issue around notices with the council, which is run by the Liberal Democrats and Greens.
She said: “After years of reporting multiple governance failures, including many cases of calling and cancelling meetings unlawfully, it is gratifying that the new monitoring officer has put a stop to at least this.
“The law is there to be followed, not abused as has so often been the case under successive administrations.”
It is the role of the monitoring officer to report on matters they believe to be illegal or
amount to maladministration. Bryn Roberts, formerly monitoring officer at North Tyneside Council, has only just taken up the role following the departure of Janie Berry.
Cuts to the democratic services department and home working among council staff have been blamed by opposition parties.
Labour group leader Cllr Claire Douglas said: “It may seem clever in control of a council to scale back the democratic function to the point where at times it struggles to function, but this seriously damages trust in the council and trust in our decision makers.
“We cannot continue with the chaos of the past three years – now is the time for a reset and a new start, where democracy and proper representation of our residents once again becomes a priority for this council”.
Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Doughty said: “Last week’s meetings were rightly postponed in light of the death of Her Majesty the Queen but this should have meant that there was greater focus on planning and correct procedure for forthcoming meetings.
“Now we have an even greater backlog – amongst them the important full council meeting on devolution which the council had already insisted couldn’t wait until October.
“It smacks of poor oversight and leads me again to question whether key individuals are spending sufficient time at West Offices over ‘working from home’.”
Cllr Anne Hook, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “It’s very disappointing to learn that an administrative error has led to several meetings having to be postponed, with considerable implications for councillor workload and schedules.
“We have requested that this incident is urgently investigated by officers to ensure that such errors do not happen again.”
A City of York Council spokesperson said: “As a result of human error, notices were not displayed to notify of several meetings taking place this week, as is required by legislation. Consequently, alternative dates for these meetings will be arranged over the next few days.
“In addition, a number of provisional meetings have been cancelled, as they were not required.”