Liberal Democrat councillors in Aberdeen have condemned a refusal by Conservative, “Aberdeen Labour” and Independent councillors who control the council to even discuss recommencing council and council committee meetings from August.
Councillor Jenny Laing, the Convener of the council’s Urgent Business Committee, refused to allow that committee to even discuss a proposal about this from Liberal Democrat Leader Ian Yuill and SNP Leader Alex Nicoll when the committee met on 6th May.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Ian Yuill commented: “Councillor Laing’s refusal is a disgrace. This is not about party politics. It is about allowing council and council committee meetings to recommence online from August. Councillors have a key role in decision making and scrutiny but most councillors have been completely excluded from this since mid March. People in Aberdeen expect their councillors to be involved in making key decisions affecting our city – yet Councillor Laing has blocked this even being discussed.”
Councillor Yuill continued: “Just last week Aberdeenshire Council had an online meeting of its full council involving over 80 participants. Aberdeenshire Council also continues to hold council committee meetings online. There is absolutely no reason why what works successfully in Aberdeenshire would not work just as well here in Aberdeen. What is good enough for Aberdeenshire should be good enough for Aberdeen. Just what are Councillor Laing and her colleagues scared of?”
What Was Proposed?
The full text of the urgent notice of motion submitted by Ian Yuill and Alex Nicoll for consideration by the 6th May meeting of Aberdeen City Council’s Urgent Business Committee was:
That this committee:
1. Thanks all members of council staff for the exceptional professionalism and commitment they have shown and continue to show during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. Notes that in meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic it has been necessary to review and amend procedures to ensure the essential delivery of services by governments and councils.
3. Notes the Urgent Business Committee’s decision of 20th March 2020 to cancel meetings of the council, most committees and sub-committees until 21st August.
4. Recognises that councillors have an essential role in scrutiny and decision making and that many members of this council are currently excluded from this.
5. Notes that on Thursday 30th April 2020 Aberdeenshire Council held a full council meeting online involving over 80 participants and that Aberdeenshire Council continues to hold committee meetings online.
6. Notes that it is likely some measure of social distancing will continue to be necessary after 21st August.
7. Agrees to suspend Standing Orders 12.6.1 and 43.2.1 to enable parts 8 and 9 to be considered.
8. Agrees that the normal cycle of council, committee and sub-committee meetings will recommence on 22nd August 2020 and that full use will be made of online meeting facilities as required to ensure social distancing requirements can be met.
9. Agrees, in the interests of openness and accountability, that all future online council, committee and sub-committee meetings will be webcast live as soon as practicable.
10. Agrees, with effect from 7th May 2020, to reinstate the composition of the Urgent Business Committee to the position on 19th March 2020 (3 SNP, 2 Conservative, 2 Aberdeen Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 Independent Alliance).
11. Instructs the Chief Officer – Governance to report to this committee no later than 30th June on the implementation of the above.