Tonight at the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee at item 2 we discussed the proposals to set up the Changing for the Future Board. This board is meant to deal with the difficult financial times which we face. We must all take our responsibilities seriously and put the interests of the city and its citizens first. The Labour Group put forward an amendment which would have made these meetings take place in public and would have broadened the membership and importantly would have included trade union representation. Our amendment would have improved these proposals but the SNP Administration were unable to take our constructive suggestions on board which rather call into question their 'bona fides' on working together in the first place. After our amendment was defeated we supported an amendment by Bailie Rod Wallace which would have meant that this board did not go forward.
I was particularly concerned that the meetings would be secret and that councillors who were not on this board would be disenfranchised. The constituents of councillors not on the board would also be disenfranchised.
I supported Councillor Keenan's amendment and said:
'It strikes me as odd that the way to deal with this important area of policy is to deal with it in secret. People outside this chamber and outside wherever this proposed secret cabal will meet will only ask themselves what is that these people have got to hide?
Why should we be against secrecy, well the councillor's code of conduct says we should be. I would remind all members that it is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with the code. We might be told that this is OK tonight but it is up to each of us individually to make sure that we are in compliance with the code of conduct. Ignorance is no defence and neither is the claim so fondly repeated here of 'a big boy done it and ran away.' We are responsible.
In the Key Principles of the Councillors' Code of Conduct it clearly states
'You have a duty to be as open as possible about your decisions and actions, giving reasons for your decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.'
The public interest in terms of the future services which we are to deliver for the people of Dundee is for openness. I would suggest that it is not public interest but rather party interest which requires secrecy.
We should also bear in mind the Best Value 2 audit. It said, 'Elected members need to make a bigger contribution to the leadership of the council and its partnerships over a range of important areas, and need to be better supported by officers to do so.'
Being spoon-fed by officers in secret doesn't do this.
The Best Value 2 Audit also stated that 'The Council has many of the key elements in place to ensure good governance and accountability. However, elected member scrutiny of decision-making and performance needs to improve.'
Meeting in secret to approve policy already decided by the Administration and the Lord Provost is hardly what Audit Scotland were looking for.
These are difficult times and we must each of us take our responsibilities seriously. Trying to hide what you are doing will not fool the people of Dundee. Let's make decisions in public, let's involve the workers and their trade unions and the citizens of Dundee and lets put the best interests of the city first, instead of narrow party interest. '