I am extremely disappointed that our new Council has yet again voted against increased openness and accountability after previously rejecting another Alliance proposal to widen Audio Recording of business to include Committee meetings. Council is already obliged to audio record full Council meetings as a result of an Alliance Amendment to the Local Government Act 2014.
This time, despite receiving a report from the Area Planning Manager recommending adoption of a Planning Protocol including electronic voting (which was outlined as the preferred option) Unionists on the new North Down and Ards Super Council have refused to even ascertain costs associated with an electronic voting system. The Planning Officers report detailed ‘Committee minutes should also record detailed voting, including which members voted for and against, those that abstained, and those members who elected to speak rather than vote.’
With new Planning powers being devolved to the Council from 1 April 2015 we must urgently ensure we have appropriate procedures in place to ensure planning decisions are made in an open, transparent and accountable manner. No longer can it be considered acceptable to have anonymous voting with Councillors raising their arm and no voting records retained on how individual Councillors voted on every application. The resolute resistance to change from some quarters is disappointing but not surprising.
As someone firmly committed to a new era of Local Government focused upon openness and accountability I am not deterred by this set back and intend to submit another proposal that to ensure all planning decisions are manually recorded votes with voting record of every Councillor on every Planning Application, Local Area Plan, Policy or Procedure recorded and retained for public review and scrutiny.