I’ve blogged before about the Commercial & Investment Committee (C&ICom). It’s got a couple of deficiencies. First is it’s got a Tory majority, got to live with that it’s proportional, the Tories always all vote together and the Tory chair always votes. Second is it excludes the press and public, ie it goes into secret session, seemingly at the drop of a hat.
And so it was today. It was just a short agenda with 10 items including 4 which were purely administrative. That left 6 of which the press and public were excluded from 3.
The first of these was ‘location of new Council Headquarters’. I argued that we should do this in public because it would result in a decision of some import (where would the new HWQ be?), there would be no discussion of financial items and there were concerns about the methodology whereby the options were compared. But to no avail. A vote was taken and it was agreed by 6 votes (Tories) to 3 (Lib Dems and Labour) to go private. So I can’t tell you what happened.
The second secret item was ‘programme highlight report’. This infuriated me because I thought I’d fought this battle and won (click here for that story). But today the relevant paper included financial information along with the programme highlights. That was just poor writing of the paper but nonetheless we voted 6 to 3 again to go private. As it is I can’t tell you if anything was reported about the proposed development in Cottenham which I was able to do last month. Crazy.
Secret item number 3 was ‘resolutions for This Land’. Click here for my take on this item because I set out to bring some good governance to the company. For no reason that I could understand we again voted 6 to 3 to go private. It was suggested that having a debate about such matters might somehow impact This Land’s ability to be successful. I argued that it would be healthy for the shareholders to have an open debate about the governance of a company in which it had a 100% share.
I can’t of course tell you what happened in the committee but straight afterwards the This Land AGM took place and resolutions 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were proposed and carried. These include the important resolution which reserved the non-executive director appointments for the shareholder. So that’s a small victory for good governance.
Meetings in secret are not good. It implies that something is being hidden which it is. But more important it implies that the decision makers do not feel sufficiently confident to open up to public scrutiny and that’s bad. And very often much of what is being hidden would be exposed by an FOI request anyway so why bother?