The following Motions have been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 15:
REQUEST FOR PUBLICATION OF CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S POLICIES
That Full Council notes that the current administration and Leadership has been in power with majority votes for eight months yet in spite of having all that time to create, evaluate and present clear and specific policies for the Council to consider, no policies have been published at all. Vague high-level visions are not enough and without specific policies and clear action plans to get on and deal with the many major issues facing the Council today, nothing will get done and the Council will continue to drift as it has done since this administration took over.
In May 2021 the Independent Group published and distributed a list of 21 district-wide policy proposals. If the current administration and Leadership have any policy proposals, they are not immediately apparent. Full Council calls on the administration and Leadership to publish a list of its current and planned policy proposals, also including a proposed action plan and timescale, before the next Ordinary Council meeting so that all Members may be fully aware of specific future plans for the benefit of the District.
Proposer: Councillor Coster
Seconder: Councillor Dixon
Following events at the September 2021 Full Council, this Council no longer has confidence in Councillor Bower as Chair of the Constitution Working Party.
Proposer: Councillor Dixon
Seconder: Councillor Coster
Following events at the September 2021 Full Council, this Council resolves to remove Councillor Bower as Chair of the Constitution Working Party, with immediate effect.
Proposer: Cllr Dixon
Seconder: Cllr Coster
This Council resolves to immediately dissolve the Constitution Working Party (CWP), the remit of the CWP will immediately become the responsibility of the Policy and Finance Committee. In Consultation with the Chair of the Policy and Finance Committee, the Monitoring Officer is instructed and authorised to make any consequential changes and necessary actions to facilitate this resolution.
Proposer: Cllr Gunner
Seconder: Cllr Pendleton
The Chair confirmed that Four Motions had been submitted for this meeting in line with Council Procedure Rule 15:
The Chair invited the proposer of Motion 1, Councillor Coster to present his Motion.
The wording of the Motion is set out below:
REQUEST FOR PUBLICATION OF CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S POLICIES
That Full Council notes that the current administration and Leadership has been in power with majority votes for eight months, yet in spite of having all that time to create, evaluate and present clear and specific policies for the Council to consider, no policies have been published at all. Vague high-level visions are not enough, and without specific policies and clear action plans to get on and deal with the many major issues facing the Council today, nothing will get done and the Council will continue to drift as it has done since this administration took over.
In May 2021 the Independent Group published and distributed a list of 21 district wide policy proposals. If the current administration and Leadership have any policy proposals, they are not immediately apparent. Full Council calls on the administration and Leadership to publish a list of its current and planned policy proposals, also including a proposed action plan and timescale, before the next Ordinary Council meeting so that all members may be fully aware of specific future plans for the benefit of the District.
Councillor Coster explained that his motion was asking the current conservative majority to confirm what their specific policies were in terms of the future of this Council. He confirmed that Councillors had not been informed and so they did not know what these were. Councillor Coster then read out his Motion. Having referred to a ‘story’, Councillor Coster outlined that no policies or plans covering the next two years had been provided. Councillor Coster questioned what these Policies were and if they would be accompanied by an action plan. Councillor Coster then referred to the Leader of the Council’s speech made at the Annual Council Meeting held in May 2021 where his Group’s aspirations had been confirmed, being new environmental initiatives; to help, support and enhance the District’s natural environment; create leisure and tourism opportunities; and looking at health care provision across the District. Councillor Coster asked where these policies and action plans were that would deal with these issues, and he stated that other political groups needed sight of these now to appreciate the Council’s direction of travel.
Councillor Coster formally proposed his Motion and urged Councillors to support it. He also requested that a recorded vote be undertaken. The Motion was seconded by Councillor Dixon [who reserved his right to speak at the end of the debate].
The Chair then invited debate. Councillors supporting this request to the Council and Conservative administration stated that it was important for the Council to have sight of a ‘route map’ to know what was happening and that it was also important for the electorate to know what was planned so that the administration could be judged against it. Other administrations had produced clear plans so that the delivery of these could be scrutinised. The priorities of the last administration were then read out to the meeting confirming that the previous administration had issued clear plans confirming their proposals and that this should apply to any administration allowing Members to not only have an appreciation of these plans and policies but also their timescale for delivery.
Other Councillors spoke strongly against the Motion, and they took issue with many of the points that had been raised, explaining that many projects and schemes had been achieved under the current administration such as the successful Levelling-Up Fund projects proving that the current administration did press on with projects and did get these moving forward.
Other Councillors not in support of the Motion reminded Councillors of the current projects underway. Councillors were reminded that the Council was currently working its way through its budget process which proposed new and beneficial strategies for this District and many examples were provided to the meeting such as the Food Waste Trial and the Tree Planting Strategy providing an additional 100 trees for every Parish in the District, coinciding with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This proved that the current administration was delivering real benefits for the District.
Debate continued with some Councillors stating that it was important for the Council to be able to work more consultatively. It was accepted that the current administration had many good ideas, such as the new Council Vision that all Councillors were working to, but more joint working and consultation amongst Groups was required to ensure that all Councillors felt involved and had the opportunity to think about future proposals.
In response, the Leader of the Council, confirmed that he would not be supporting this motion to publish the Conservative Group’s manifesto and he explained why. He referred to policies and actions of the previous coalition Liberal Democrat administration and confirmed a list of regeneration strategies; plans, policies and targets that had not been delivered. Councillor Gunner confirmed that he could not accept the point made that this was an administration that was not getting things done. Some of the key areas of delivery raised earlier in the debate were repeated especially around the economy and regeneration.
Councillor Dixon was invited to speak as seconder of the Motion. He outlined that it was the public that the Council served that needed to see the policies of the current administration and especially as his Group had published their policies in 2021 in the hope that this would have stimulated discussion, instead it had been met with a wall of silence. Councillor Dixon outlined that the Council needed to tackle the many problems that it faced, like the failing Local plan which was not viable. The Committee system had Committees with light work programmes and so what was the strategic direction for the Council? There was a major problem that needed to be addressed which was that the Government had applied its severest sanction available by putting the Council into presumption for what they assessed as failure to deliver new housing. What was the Council going to do about this and what were its plans to assist the local economy in terms of wage levels; plans for the Bognor Regis Arcade and providing a vibrant visitor economy to attract visitors.
Councillor Coster, as proposer of the Motion, reinforced what he had requested earlier in delivering the Motion.
Those voting for the Motion were Councillors Blanchard-Cooper, Coster, Dixon, Gregory, Hamilton, Lury, Oppler, Stanley, Tilbrook, Thurston, Walsh, Worne and Yeates . Those voting against it were Councillors Bicknell, Bower, Caffyn, Chapman, Clayden, Mrs Cooper, Cooper, Dendle, Edwards, Elkins, Mrs English, English, Goodheart, Gunner, Hughes, Kelly, Madeley, Oliver-Redgate, Pendleton, Roberts and Stainton . Councillors Brooks, Buckland and Staniforth abstained from voting .
The motion was therefore declared NOT CARRIED.
The Chair invited Councillor Dixon to present his Motion. Councillor Dixon confirmed that he was proceeding with Motion 2 but would withdraw Motion 3.
The wording for Motion 2 is as set out below:
Following events at the September 2021 Full Council this Council no longer has confidence in Councillor Bower as Chairman of the Constitution Working Party.
Councillor Buckland raised a Point of Order strongly confirming his views that the content of this Motion was inappropriate and should not be treated as business of this Council. His viewpoint was that if Councillor Bower’s conduct had been inappropriate at any time, then there were other methods that would deal with this matter through the Standards Committee and its procedures for Member Conduct.
The Chair invited the Chief Executive to comment. He outlined that having sought legal advice, the presumption was that Motions put forward by an Elected Member should wherever possible be accepted. The question mark was a technical one having had the Motion put forward. The legal challenge was whether the Constitution stipulated that someone could have a vote of no confidence applied to them, and the Constitution was silent on that. However, there was no other remedy within the Constitution and so the presumption to accept was taken and the Motion accepted. Councillors now had to debate and express their own opinions as to how to debate this matter.
Councillor Dixon then presented his motion explaining why it was necessary. He referred to events that had occurred at the September meeting of Full Council which he stated remained unresolved and so it was important for the public to understand what happened and why those matters remained unresolved.
Councillor Dixon then proposed his Motion which was seconded by Councillor Coster.
Councillor Dixon provided some background to his motion covering how the new Committee system had been introduced, that a new Constitution had been adopted for the new governance structure and that the Constitution Working Party had remained as a functioning Working Party to address any issues arising from the change in structure that might need reviewing. At the September Full Council meeting, Councillor Roberts had proposed a Motion without Notice to suspend a Council Procedure Rule which had been seconded by Councillor Bower who was also Chair of the Constitution Working Party. The purpose of this Motion without Notice had been to permanently remove the ability to rescind decisions from the Constitution. The way in which the motion had been dealt with procedurally lead to a walk out from the meeting by many Members of the Council. What followed was a maladministration complaint and an independent investigation being conducted by Chichester District Council’s Monitoring Officer as well as other various legal advice with associated costs. There had been tentative agreement at Leader level to reinstate the ability to rescind and to reinstate Council Procedure Rule 19.1, which should be considered at the next meeting of the Constitution Working Party. This matter remained unresolved with some injustices remaining unactioned. The maladministration complaint had since been referred to The Secretary of State to resolve. As Councillor Bower held special responsibility for the Constitution, as Chair of the Constitution Working Party, his conduct at the September Full Council meeting was under question as he should have upheld the Constitution and should have followed due process in the long term interests of the Council. The Council’s Constitution made it clear that any changes to the Constitution should be firstly discussed and debated by the Working Party. This process had been bypassed at the Full Council meeting and no advance and adequate consultation had been undertaken with the Monitoring Officer in advance of the meeting. Councillor Dixon then referred to the appropriate sections of the Constitution that needed to be considered when changing any sections of the Constitution. This procedure had not been applied.
In response to some of the comments made by Councillor Dixon in delivering his motion, the Chief Executive confirmed that the processes followed had been legal.
Councillor Dixon returned to his motion referring to the investigation conducted in response to the maladministration complaint and attempted to read out the legal response he had received. This was not permitted by the Monitoring Officer.
Councillor Bower held a position of special responsibility in his role as Chair of the Constitution Working Party and failed to act in accordance with his role. He should have upheld the Constitution ensuring that any requested changes to it followed the correct constitutional process and were in the long-term interests of the Council. He did not do this, and this was why he needed to face the motion of no confidence. Councillor Dixon requested that a recorded vote be undertaken.
The Chair then invited debate. A Councillor expressed his concern at the use of the word maladministration and stated that there had been no maladministration upheld and so asked for this to be removed and retracted by the Councillor.
Councillor Dixon disputed this and refused to withdraw the statements he had made.
The Chair confirmed that he did not feel that mention of maladministration should be recorded in the minutes. A request was made by Councillor Cooper to Councillor Dixon to withdraw his Motion.
The Chair then invited debate. Councillors speaking against this motion express their strong views and sadness over the nature of it and that it was not appropriate business for the Council. Those speaking regarded the motion as shameful, spiteful, despicable and unconscionable. Members speaking strongly against the Motion supported Councillor Bower and referred to his longstanding and exceptional service to the Council covering 30 years’ service to the District and the residents of Arun. Referring to the legal advice received, this had shown that the decisions made at the September Full Council meeting had been legitimate.
Having heard strong views from Councillor Buckland that this was inappropriate Council business, he formally proposed a Motion without Notice to “Move to the Vote” which was immediately seconded by Councillor Dendle.
The Chair agreed to this but returned to Councillor Coster, as seconder to the Motion, and as he had reserved his right to speak.
Councillor Coster repeated the words of Councillor Dixon in proposing the Motion reminding Members of the importance of the Constitution Working Party and the role of its Chair.
Councillor Dixon, as proposer of the Motion, referred again to the breaches that had taken place and that had not been actioned.
Those voting for the Motion were Councillors Coster, Dixon, Hamilton, Lury, Oppler, Stanley, Thurston and Walsh . Those voting against were Councillors Bicknell, Bower, Buckland, Caffyn, Chapman, Clayden, Mrs Cooper, Cooper, Dendle, Edwards, Elkins, Mrs English, English, Goodheart, Gunner, Hughes, Kelly, Madeley, Oliver-Redgate, Pendleton, Roberts, Stainton and Staniforth . Councillors Blanchard-Cooper, Brooks, Tilbrook and Yeates abstained from voting .
The motion was therefore not carried.
As previously confirmed by the proposer, Councillor Dixon, earlier – this Motion was withdrawn.
The proposer of this Motion, Councillor Gunner confirmed that he was withdrawing this Motion.