29/06/2007

Voting Board Trial Proposal

MOTION TO GIVE THREE-MONTH TRIAL TO USE OF VOTING BOARD IN COUNCIL MEETINGS - Speech to Council 28/6/07 – Alun Williams

Its one of the first questions that new councillors ask when they sit down in the chamber – why don’t we use the voting board? I don’t know if the voting board was ever used before my time as a councillor but its certainly the case that the majority of councillors have never had the opportunity to try it. And, when I’m told that the cost of the board was somewhere between £30 – £40,000, that doesn’t seem right.

A number of times in Development Control Committee councillors have asked if the board can be used but we’ve always been told it requires a motion of Council. Development Control Committee is specifically referred to in the motion because this is the meeting in which by far the most votes are taken. And they’re often very important votes. And it needs to be said that, at times this year, there have been some quite chaotic scenes in that committee when hand counts have been shown to be counted wrongly and recounts have been taken and results reversed.

Now, of course, apart from the damage to the image of the Council amongst the public and press watching, there are legal implications to this. If an important planning application has been won or lost due to a mistake in counting hands, and that can be proved, then the council is open to legal action. And that situation has come very, very close to happening quite recently.

Of course nothing is completely foolproof and voting boards can cause difficulties as well. That’s why we’re proposing a trial first to look at how it would work in practice. I appreciate there could be problems of accountability but recorded votes can still be called for and the current situation has been legally dangerous for the authority at times.

So this motion is simply asking for a trial period of three months during which Full Council and the Development Control Committee will use the voting board to see how it works in practice. And, after the trial, the Council can come back and decide whether or not they want to continue using it, or to use it in particular meetings, or leave it to each committee to decide, or give discretion for the chair to use it in close votes or whatever they want. But, for the sake of the Council’s credibility, it really does need to be tried.
The motion was defeated by one vote

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