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Constitution - Part 5D - Access to information procedure rules

 

 

1.1 These rules apply to all meetings of the Council, Scrutiny Boards Local Committees, and all other committees and public meetings of the Cabinet (together called meetings).
2.1 These rules do not affect any more specific rights to information contained elsewhere in this Constitution or the law.

3.1 Members of the public may attend all meetings subject only to the exceptions set out in these rules.

3.2 Where the Cabinet meets to consider a key decision, the meeting must be held in public, unless exempt or confidential information is to be discussed.

3.3 While the meeting is open to the public, any person attending the meeting for the purpose of reporting the proceedings is, so far as practicable, to be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report.

4.1 The County Council will give at least five clear days' notice of any meeting by posting details of the meeting at Cumbria House, Carlisle, at County Offices, Kendal, and at the venue for the meeting (the designated offices).

4.2  A notice of meetings will also be published on the County Council's web site.  The County Council also publishes its agenda for meetings on the Internet, accessible via www.cumbria.gov.uk

5.1 The County Council will make copies of the agenda and reports open to the public available for inspection at the designated offices at least five clear days before the meeting.

5.2 Where a meeting is convened at shorter notice a copy of the agenda and associated reports will be open to inspection from the time the meeting is convened.  If an item is added to the agenda later, the revised agenda will be open to inspection from the time the item was added to the agenda.
 
5.3 Where reports are prepared after the summons has been sent out, the Assistant Director - Corporate Governance shall make each such report available to the public as soon as the report is completed and sent to councillors ('members').

6.1 The County Council will supply copies of:

(a) Any agenda and reports which are open to public inspection;

(b) Any further statements or particulars necessary to indicate the nature of the items in the agenda;  and

(c) If the Assistant Director - Corporate Governance thinks fit, copies of any other documents supplied to members in connection with an item;

to any person on payment of a charge for postage and any other costs.

6.2 A reasonable number of copies of the agenda and of the reports will be made available at the meeting.

7.1 The County Council will make available copies of the following for 6 years after a Meeting:

(a) The minutes of the meeting, or records of decisions taken, together with reasons, for all meetings of the Cabinet, excluding any part of the minutes of proceedings when the meeting was not open to the public or which disclose exempt or confidential information;

(b) A summary of any proceedings not open to the public, where the minutes open to inspection would not provide a reasonably fair and coherent record;

(c) The agenda for the meeting;  and

(d) Reports relating to items when the meeting was open to the public.

List of Background Papers

8.1 The relevant Corporate Director will set out in every report a list of those documents (called background papers), relating to the subject matter of the report, which in his/her opinion:

(a) Disclose any facts or matters on which the report, or an important part of the report, is based;  and

(b) Which have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report; but does not include published works, or those which disclose exempt or confidential information (as defined in rule 10 of these Procedure Rules)

Public Inspection of Background Papers

8.2 The County Council will make available for public inspection, for four years after the date of the meeting, one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers.

8.3 In respect of meetings of the Cabinet and Local Committees, when a report is made available for inspection by members of the public in accordance with rule 5 of these Procedure Rules then at the same time at least one copy of each background paper will be made available for inspection by the public at the offices of the Council and on the Council's web site.

9.1 A written summary of the public's rights to attend meetings, and to inspect and copy documents, must be kept at, and be available to the public at the Legal and Democratic Services  Unit, Cumbria House, 117 Botchergate, Carlisle CA1 1RD.

Confidential Information - Requirement to exclude Public

10.1 The public must be excluded from meetings whenever it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that confidential information would be disclosed.

Exempt Information - Discretion to exclude public

10.2 The public may be excluded from meetings whenever it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that exempt information would be disclosed. Such reports will be marked "not for publication", together with the category of information likely to be disclosed. Where possible any exempt information will be contained in an appendix to enable discussion of the main item to be held in public.

10.3 Any resolution to exclude the public due to disclosure of exempt information must identify the part of the proceedings to which it applies and the description of exempt information being used.

10.4 Where the meeting will determine any person's civil rights or obligations, or adversely affect their possessions, Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 establishes a presumption that the meeting will be held in public unless a private hearing is necessary for one of the reasons specified in Article 6.
Meaning of Confidential Information

10.5 Confidential information means information given to the County Council by a Government Department on terms which forbid its public disclosure or information which cannot be publicly disclosed by Court Order.
Meaning of Exempt Information

10.6 Exempt information means information falling within the following seven categories (subject to any qualification):

General Note
In all categories information is not exempt if it relates to development for which the local planning authority may grant itself planning permission under  Regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992.

Subject to this, and the qualification in Category 3, Information in Categories 1 to 7 is exempt if and so long as, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.

CategoryCondition
1. Information relating to any individual.See General Note above.
2. Information which is likely to reveal identity of an individual.See General Note above.
3. Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

N.B. "Financial or business affairs" includes contemplated, as well as past or current, activities.
Information in Category 3 is not exempt if it is required to be registered under the Companies Act 1985, the Friendly Societies Acts 1974 and 1992, the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1965 to 1978, the building Societies Act 1986, or the Charities Act 1993.  Also see General Note above.
4. Information relating to any consultations or negotiations, or contemplated consultations or negotiations, in connection with any labour relations matter arising between the authority or a Minister of the Crown and employees of, or office holders under, the authority."Labour relations matters" are as specified in paragraphs (a) to (g) of section 218(1) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, i.e. matters which may be the subject of a trade dispute.  Also see General Note above.
5. Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings.See General Note above.

6. Information which reveals that the authority proposes:

(a) to give under any enactment a notice under or by virtue of which requirements are imposed on a person;  or

(b) to make an order or direction under any enactment.

See General Note above.
7. Information relating to any action taken or to be taken in connection with the prevention, investigation or prosecution of crime.See General Note above.

 

11.1 If the Assistant Director - Corporate Governance thinks fit, the Council may exclude access by the public to reports which, in his or her opinion, relate to items during which, in accordance with rules 10.1 to 10.5 the meeting is likely not to be open to the public.  These reports will be marked "Not for publication", together with the category of information likely to be disclosed.

12.1 Rules 13 - 23 below apply to the Cabinet and its Committees, including Local Committees when they make executive decisions.  If the Cabinet or its Committees, or a Local Committee, meet to take a key decision then they must also comply with Rules 1 - 11, unless Rule 15 'General Exception' or Rule 16 'Special Urgency' apply.  A key decision is defined in Part 2 of this Constitution.

12.2 If the Cabinet, or a Local Committee, meet to discuss a key decision to be taken collectively, with an officer of the County Council within 28 days of the date according to the Forward Plan by which it is to be decided, then it must also comply with rules 1 - 11 of these Procedure Rules, unless rule 15 'General Exception' or rule 16 'Special Urgency' apply.  This requirement does not include meetings whose sole purpose is for officers of the County Council to brief members.

Procedure Prior to a Private meeting of Cabinet

12.3  Subject to rule 12.4, a decision by Cabinet to hold a meeting or part of a meeting, in private may not be taken unless:

(a)  A notice has been published in the Forward Plan at least 28 clear days before the meeting in question and made available on the council's website. This notice is to include a statement of the reasons for the meeting being held in private; and

(b)  A further notice is included on the agenda and published on the County Council's website 5 clear days before the meeting. This notice is to include:

 i)  A statement of the reasons for the meeting to be held in private;

ii)  Details of any representations received by the Cabinet about why the meeting should be open to the public; and

iii)  A statement of its response to any such representations.

12.4  If a matter has not been included in accordance with rule 12.3 above then the decision to hold a meeting, or part of a meeting, in private may still be taken if the Cabinet obtains the agreement of the Chair of the relevant Scrutiny Board(or in that person's absence the Chair of the Council and in the Chairman's absence the Vice-Chairman) that the meeting is urgent and cannot reasonably be deferred. As soon as it is practicably possible a notice will be published on the Council Council's website setting out the reason why the meeting is urgent and cannot be reasonably deferred.

13.1 Subject to rule 15 'General Exception' and rule 16 'Special Urgency' of these Procedure Rules a key decision may not be taken unless:

(a) A document has been published in connection with the matter in question in accordance with Rule 14; or

(b) Where the decision is to be taken at a meeting of the Cabinet or a Local Committee, notice of the meeting has been given in accordance with rule 4 'Notice of Meetings'.

14.1 The Forward Plan will contain details of key decisions to be taken by the Cabinet, Local Committees or a Corporate Director.  It will give the following details:

(a) That a key decision is to be made on behalf of the County Council;

(b) The matter in respect of which the decision is to be made;

(c) Where the decision maker is an individual, that individual's name, and title, if any, and, where the decision maker is a decision-making body, its name and a link to its list of its members;

(d) The date on which, or the period within which, the decision is to be made;

(e) The identity of the principal groups whom the decision taker proposes to consult before taking the decision;

(f) The means by which any such consultation is proposed to be undertaken;

(g) The steps any person might take who wishes to make representations to the Cabinet  or decision taker about the matter in respect of which the decision is to be made, and the date by which those steps must be taken;

(h) A list of the documents submitted to the decision maker for consideration in relation to the matter in respect of which the key decision is to be made;

(i) The address from which, subject to any prohibition or restriction on their disclosure, copies of, or extracts from, any document listed is available;

(j) That other documents relevant to those matters may be submitted to the decision maker; and

(k) The procedure for requesting details of those documents (if any) as they become available.

14.2  At least 28 clear days before a key decision is made, the document referred to in rule 14.1 above must be made available for inspection by the public:

(a) At the offices of the Council; and

(b) On the County Council's website.

14.3 Where, in relation to any matter:

(a) The public may be excluded under rule 10 of these Procedure Rules from the meeting at which the matter is to be discussed; or

(b) Documents relating to the decision need not be disclosed to the public because they contain confidential or exempt information,

the Forward Plan  referred to in rule 14.1 above must contain particulars of the matter but may not contain any confidential, exempt information.

14.4 The Forward Plan will include details of all key decisions to be made for a two month period beginning 28 clear days after the document is made available for public inspection in accordance with rule 14.2 above.

15.1 Subject to rule 16 'Special Urgency' below, where the publication of the intention to make a key decision under rule 14 is impracticable, that decision may only be made when:

(a) Notice of the matter about which the decision is to be made and the reasons why it has been impracticable to apply rule 14 above has been given in writing to the chairman of the relevant Scrutiny Board Committee or in their absence where written notice has been sent to each member of that Committee and  made available at the offices of the County Council and published on the County Council's website; and

(b) At least five clear days have elapsed since the notice given in point (a) above was made available.

15.2 Where rule 15.1 above applies to any matter, rule 14 above need not be complied with in relation to that matter.

16.1 Where the date by which a key decision must be made, makes compliance with rule 15 impracticable, the decision may only be made where the decision maker has obtained agreement from:

(a) The Chair of the relevant Scrutiny Board; or

(b) If there is no such person, or if the Chair of the relevant Scrutiny Board is unable to act, the Chair of the Council; or

(c) Where there is no Chair of either the relevant Scrutiny Board or of the Council, the vice-chairman of the Council,
that the making of the decision is urgent and cannot reasonably be deferred.

16.2  As soon as reasonably practicable after the decision maker has obtained agreement under rule 16.1 that the making of the decision is urgent and cannot reasonably be deferred, the decision maker must:

(a) Make available at the offices of the County Council a notice setting out the reasons that the matter  is urgent and cannot reasonably be deferred; and

(b) Publish that notice on the County Council's website.

When a Scrutiny Board can require a report (see also Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules)

17.1 Where an executive decision has been made and:

(a) Was not treated as being a key decision; and

(b) A relevant Scrutiny Board are of the opinion that the decision should have been treated as a key decision,
that Scrutiny Board may require the Cabinet to submit a report to the Council within such reasonable period as the committee may specify.

17.2 A report under rule 17.1 above must include details of:

(a) The decision and the reasons for the decision;

(b) The decision maker by which the decision was made; and

(c) If the Cabinet are of the opinion that the decision was not a key decision, the reasons for that opinion.

Cabinet's Report to Council

17.3 The Leader of the Council ('Leader') must submit to the Council a report containing details of each Cabinet decision taken during the period since the last report was submitted to Council where the making of the decision was agreed as urgent in accordance with rule 16 of these Procedure Rules.

17.4 A report submitted for the purposes of rule 17.3 must include:

(a) Particulars of each decision made; and

(b) A summary of the matters in respect of which each decision was made.

17.5 The Leader must submit at least one report under rule 17.4 above annually to the Council.

Regular Reports on Special Urgency decisions

17.6 In any event, the Leader will submit reports to each Ordinary Council meeting on the Cabinet decisions taken in the circumstances set out in rule 16 'Special Urgency' since the last Council meeting.  The report will include the number of decisions so taken, and a summary of the matters in respect of which those decisions were taken.

18.1 After any meeting of the Cabinet or a Local Committee, whether held in public or private, the Chief Executive  or, where no officer of the County Council was present, the person presiding at the meeting, will produce a record of every decision taken at that meeting as soon as practicable.  The record will include the following information:

(a) A record of the decision including the date it was made;

(b) A record of the reasons for the decision;
 
(c) Details of any alternative options considered and rejected by the decision-making body at the meeting at which the decision was made;

(d) A record of any conflict of interest relating to the matter decided which is declared by any member of the decision-making body which made the decision; and

(e) In respect of any declared conflict of interest, a note of dispensation granted by the Standards Committee/Monitoring Officer.

19.1 The Cabinet will hold all meetings in public except where exempt reports are to be considered. Where exempt reports are to be considered, the press and public will only be excluded during the consideration of those specific items.
20.1 Members of the Cabinet will be entitled to receive five clear working days' notice of a meeting to which they are summoned, unless the meeting is convened at shorter notice as a matter of urgency.
21.1 All members of the Council are entitled to attend all meetings of the Cabinet. Non-Cabinet members may be allowed to address meetings of the Cabinet with the Leader's approval in advance. 

21.2 The Chief Executive ('Head of Paid Service'), the Section 151 Officer and the Monitoring Officer, together with any Corporate Director who is a signatory to a report being considered by the Cabinet, and their nominees, are entitled to attend meetings of the Cabinet.

22.1 Subject to rule 22.3 below a member of a Scrutiny Board is entitled to a copy of any document which is in the possession or under the control of the Cabinet and contains material relating to:

(a) Any business that has been transacted at a meeting of the Cabinet; or

(b) Any decision that has been made by an officer of the County Council in accordance with Cabinet arrangements.

22.2 Subject to rule 22.3 below, where a member of an Scrutiny Board requests a document which falls within rule 22.1 above this  must be provided  as soon as reasonably practicable and in any case no later than 10 clear days after the Cabinet  receives the request.

22.3 No member of a Scrutiny board is entitled to:

(a) Any report that is in draft form;

(b) Any  document or part of a document that contains exempt or confidential information unless that information is relevant to:

(i) An action or decision that they are reviewing or scrutinising; or

(ii) Any review contained in any programme of work of that Scrutiny Board; or

22.4 Where the Cabinet determines that a member of a Scrutiny Board is not entitled to a copy of a document or part of any such document for a reason set out in rules 22.1 or 22.3 above, it must provide the Scrutiny Board with a written statement setting out its reasons for that decision.

23.1 Subject to rules 23.4 and 23.5 below, any document which is in the possession or under the control of the Cabinet and contains material relating to any business to be transacted at a public meeting, must be available for inspection by any member at least 5 clear days before the meeting. Where the meeting is convened at shorter notice the document must be available for inspection when the meeting is convened and where an item is added to the agenda at shorter notice, the document must be available for inspection when the item is added to the agenda.

23.2 Subject to rules 23.5 and 23.6 below, any document which:

(a) Is in the possession or under the control of the Cabinet; and

(b) Contains material relating to:

(i) Any business transacted at a private meeting;

(ii) Any decision made by an individual member in accordance with executive arrangements; or

(iii) Any key decision made by an officer in accordance with executive arrangements;
must be available for inspection by any member when the meeting concludes or where a decision is made by an officer of the County Council immediately after the decision has been made.

23.3 Any document which is required by rule 23.2 above to be available for inspection by any member must be available for such inspection, in any event, within 24 hours of the conclusion of the meeting or the decision being made, as the case may be.

23.4 Rules 23.1 and 23.2 above do not require a document to be available for inspection if it appears to the Proper Officer that it discloses exempt information of a description falling within Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the 1972 Act (descriptions of exempt information: England).

23.5 Notwithstanding rule 23.4, rules 23.1 and 23.2 nothing in these rules requires any documents to be made available for inspection if it discloses exempt information as set out in rule 23.4 unless the document contains exempt information  of a description  falling within:

(a) Paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the 1972 Act (except to the extent that the information relates to any terms proposed or to be proposed by or to the authority in the course of negotiations for a contract); or

(b) Paragraph 6 of Schedule 12A to the 1972 Act.

23.6 The rights conferred by rules 23.1 and 23.2 above are in addition to any other rights that a member may have.

Before taking a key decision a Corporate Director must comply with rule 14 'The Forward Plan of Key Decisions' subject to rule 15 'General Exception' and rule 16 'Special Urgency'.

Reports
 

24.1 Where a Corporate Director receives a report which she/he intends to take into account in making a key decision, then she/he will not make the decision until at least five clear days after the report has been sent to the Chair of every relevant Scrutiny Board, the Leader, and the report has been made publicly available by publishing it on the County Council's website.

24.2 If the Leader considers that the proposed decision should be taken by Cabinet and not the Corporate Director then the Leader will, before the five day period referred to in rule 24.1 above has expired, notify this in writing to the Corporate Director and the Assistant Director - Corporate Governance. Where a decision is urgent and the Corporate Director is not able to comply with rule 15 'General Exception' of these Procedure Rules and it is therefore not possible to give the Leader five days' notice then Leader must be notified of the intention to take the decision as a matter of urgency and given at least 24 hours to decide whether the decision should instead be taken by the Cabinet.

Record of Individual Officer Decisions

24.3 Where a key decision has been taken by a Corporate Director, she/he will prepare a record of the decision which includes the following information:

(a) The detail of the decision including the date it was made;

(b) The reasons for the decision;

(c) Details of any alternative options considered and rejected when the decision was made.

The Assistant Director - Corporate Governance will publish and circulate the record of the decision to all members within 3 working days of the date of the decision for the purposes of call in. This does not require the disclosure of confidential or exempt information as defined in rule 10 of these Procedure Rules.

Inspection of documents following Key Decisions

24.4 Where a request on behalf of a newspaper is made for a copy of any of the documents available for public inspection, those documents must be supplied for the benefit of the newspaper by the Council on payment by the newspaper of postage, copying or other necessary charge for transmission.

25.1 Where an officer takes a decision in relation to a Council function delegated to them under an express delegation from the Council, it's Committees, Sub Committees or any Joint Committee  or under the existing scheme of delegation and the decision:

(a) Grants a permission or licence;

(b) Affects the rights of an individual; or

(c) Awards a contract or incurs' expenditure which materially affects the Council's financial position.

then as soon as possible after the decision has been taken, the officer will produce a written record of the decision and publish it on the County Council's website together with the relevant report. The record will include;

(a) The details of the decision including the date it was made;

(b) The reasons for it;

(c) Details of any alternative options considered and rejected by the officer at the time of making the decision;, and

(d) A record of any interest declared by any Cabinet Member consulted by the officer who made the decision together with a note of any dispensation granted in respect of that interest.

25.2 The written record will be retained and made available for inspection by the public for period of six years beginning with the date of the decision to which it relates.