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Barnet Council meetings could be postponed for a month after new committee system found to be ‘flawed’

16:34 17 June 2014

Barnet Council chief executive Andrew Travers.

Barnet Council chief executive Andrew Travers.

Archant

The chief executive of Barnet Council may be forced to suspend all council meetings for a month after the authority’s new committee system was found to be “flawed”.

Andrew Travers today announced that he wished to postpone all council meetings until at least July 15 - the date of the next full council meeting, where it is hoped the problems will be rectified.

But Mr Travers must have the proposal approved by both group leaders before any decision can be made.

It is understood he is currently awaiting a response from one of the party leaders.

The saga follows confusion over the membership and political balance of the council’s new environment committee which met for the first time last week.

Following the issues encountered last week, Mr Travers asked senior legal officer Hugh Peart to review the committee arrangements and was subsequently informed that the new system was “flawed”.

In January, the council agreed to scrap the cabinet sytem of decision-making and replace it with a cross-party committee system.

Today, Mr Travers wrote to councillors, explaining: “Mr Peart reported to me yesterday that the proportionality report agreed by council was flawed and could not form the basis of sound decision-making.

“I accordingly informed members of this at the scheduled meeting of assets, regeneration and growth committee last night.

“I subsequently asked Mr Peart to confirm his view by obtaining external legal advice. He has now obtained the advice of James Gaudie QC.

“Mr Gaudie has confirmed Mr Peart’s view that the proportionality report agreed at council was flawed. Mr Gaudie further advises that the council should put this right at the first opportunity.

“He does, however, go on to say that it is open to the council to continue with scheduled committees in the meantime, and that decisions taken would be valid.

“I will consult with the group leaders on whether scheduled meetings should continue on this basis. In the meantime, I have asked that this evening’s licensing committee is postponed.

“The current position is deeply regrettable and I apologise sincerely to all members. The move to committee system was always going to be challenging but the change has not been implemented as efficiently as members, or indeed residents, should expect from the council.

“It is important that there is a clear understanding of how this situation has arisen and what action, if any, should be taken.

“I will be appointing an external reviewer to conduct an urgent investigation into the processes leading to the reports presented to annual council on June 2. This will be published at the earliest opportunity.”

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