‘Publish secret council report ASAP’ – Pressure grows on leader to go public

The council chamber at York Guildhall. Photograph: City of York Council
16 Oct 2017 @ 9.03 pm
| News, Politics

York council’s culture of secrecy is being challenged by a group of senior councillors.

Read the letter to Cllr Carr here (PDF)

Members of City of York Council’s audit and governance committee have today (Monday) written to the authority’s leader Cllr David Carr, urging him to publish a report into officer and member conduct.

Cllr Carr is the only elected member of the council to have seen the full report by the Local Government Association.

He has refused to make it public, despite promising members at a full council meeting in July that he would.

Stormy meeting

[arve url=”https://youtu.be/QYo2jmUsfh4″ title=”Audit & governance committee, February 22 ” /]

In their letter to Cllr Carr, all seven cross-party members of the committee express their concerns “over the lack of openness and transparency” surrounding the report.

They ask him to confirm two points:

  1. The report will be published for the audit and governance committee as soon as possible, if necessary with the full version seen in private session and a redacted copy being public
  2. You re-affirm your commitment to working in an open and transparent manner, whilst protecting the rights of members and officers by not prejudicing the outcome of any report.

The report in question investigated the conduct of officers and members at a meeting of the audit and governance committee on February 22.

In this stormy meeting, committee members decided to go against officer advice and publish a previous report which was highly critical of the way the council procured and paid £174,000 to a communications consultant.

Officers then demanded reasons from councillors as to why they had voted againt their recommendations.

Push for greater openness

City of York Council leader Cllr David Carr. Photograph: York Conservatives

Previously Cllr Carr said he was considering what to do with the report, but “the council must take extreme care to ensure it does not prejudice any potential investigation”, adding:

“That may require a necessary level of confidentiality despite my desire that within City of York Council, we all, officers and politicians alike, should be as transparent as possible in all that we do.”

In their letter to him, the audit and governance committee write:

We hope that you as leader and City of York Council will learn from past events at audit and governance and push forward towards greater openness instead of just trying to fulfil minimum expectations with members and the public.

When writing public reports, we should carefully balance the legitimate public interest in disclosure against data protection concerns, working with redacted or summarised reports with private annexes rather than excluding whole reports as confidential.