Letters to the Editor

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Private meetings

I refer to the recent decision by elected members of Midlothian Council to “in special circumstances, be allowed to discuss items in private should they so wish” (Advertiser, June 19); and my previous letter on May 22 raising my personal concerns that this would be undemocratic and contrary to the aim of community engagement.

A reason for supporting this move is given by Midlothian Council leader Owen Thompson i.e. “a group might want to employ members of staff... and therefore there would have to be a process for dealing with grievances and such like”. Surely such an arrangement would be as employee and employer (the community council committee) and therefore covered by employment and data protection legislation; therefore would not require to be discussed at a public meeting.

My own community council (Tynewater) is of the view that “although they support the principle of decision making in public, a member of the public may approach the community council for advice/assistance and not wish their particular issue to be discussed in public”.

I am on record as rejecting this as my experience is that indivdual issues are dealt with by an individual member of the community council and only the outline of the issue, actions taken and outcomes need to be reported back to the community council at a public meeting, if at all.

It is interesting to note that Labour group councillor Derek Milligan states “before discussing anything in private a community council would have to seek advice from our (local authority) and be given consent. That gives us some assurance”. I have to say that his does not in any way give me assurance; surely if community councils have the constitutional right to hold private meetings “should they so wish”; then to require them to “be given consent” by the local authority is also undemocratic. I find the justifications for this decision to be spurious at least and do not hold water when subject to close local community needs scrutiny. It should be noted that although a member of Tynewater Community Council (representing Pathhead), these are my own personal views and do not represent the view of my community council.

Bob Bertram

Main Street, Pathhead

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