Sunday, 13 August 2017

BA clears itself of breaking rules by changing rules

What do you do when someone spots that you’ve breached your own rules?

Easy - change those rules.

As I reported last week, the Authority has refused to reinstate Broadland District Council’s elected representative on to the planning committee, despite this action being in clear contravention of the Authority’s Duty to Cooperate statement.

The existence of this duty was completely ignored at the meeting - even though a member asked a direct question about constitutional documents relating to committee membership. Having questioned the Authority subsequently, I was told that the document is not part of the constitution and is neither mandatory nor prescriptive. What then, I asked, is the point of having it? I couldn’t get an answer on that one.

In fact, the Authority doesn’t have a constitution as such, although there are a number of “Constitutional documents” on the website - which the Authority seem to treat as a kind of pick & mix, to invoke or ignore according to their preference.

It is a statutory requirement under the Localism Act 2011 to have a Duty to Cooperate Statement, as part of the Local Plan. It places a legal duty on local planning authorities “to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local Plan preparation”. If a local planning authority hasn’t complied with its duty to cooperate, then its Local Plan will fail examination and not be adopted.

Armed with that knowledge, you would expect the Broads Authority to comply with this duty by including all local authorities in the planning process. But why do that when you can just change the rules?

Two weeks ago, it was claimed that there was no known document which related to the composition of the planning committee. Just 2 days later, a report was completed for the August planning committee meeting featuring the latest updates to the Local Plan, including a subtle amendment to the allegedly “unknown” Duty to Cooperate. Tucked away on page 129 is a sentence which has been altered from:
“Each of the 6 Districts and 2 County Councils have representation at the Planning Committee by virtue of one of their Broads Authority appointed Members.”
“A number of the Local Authority Appointed members sit on the Planning Committee.”
This change is not highlighted in any way, and the remainder of the statement is virtually identical to the previous version. This is nothing more than a contemptuous attempt to change the rules after the event, to justify the arbitrary exclusion of a member on personal grounds, in the hope that nobody notices. Does the BA Chair and Vice-Chairman’s obvious personal dislike for one particular member really merit compromising such important documents as the Local Plan - and the BA’s relationships with other Authorities?

I recall also that at the meeting of the full Authority, the proposal not to include “all local authority members” on the planning committee was defeated on the basis that any such decision should wait for the upcoming governance review. Why, then, is it ok to sneak such changes through the back door of the Local Plan consultation process?

How much longer must it be before Members stop acquiescing to these abuses of process & power, and become accountable for the Authority’s actions?

Readers should note that this article represents my personal opinions and should not be construed as being the view of the Navigation Committee. They are made in my private capacity as an individual, and not as a co-opted member of the Navigation Committee.

1 comment:

  1. Same old thing. the BA think they are god and can do whatever they want. how can we fight to remove all of these people.