Council overturns 'strange decision' of previous administration

PUBLISHED: 16:00 21 July 2019

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Google

Months of squabbles have been put to bed after Portishead Town Council agreed to reinstate the names of members of the public in official documents.

The authority voted in March to exclude speakers' names from minutes of meetings when they took part in public participation sessions amid concerns over data protection.

But the new-look council - which has only one incumbent councillor sitting after May's elections saw Portishead Independents secure a landslide victory - has agreed to reverse the motion, meaning public speakers will have their names recorded in the minutes again.

A new motion was agreed at the authority's meeting on July 10 asking speakers to specify they wish to be excluded from minutes.

The decision to exclude speakers' names was prompted after General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation was introduced last year, but the vote received much criticism from people who felt their opinions and concerns were not being appropriately recognised.

Resident Annette Hennessy - who for months has urged the town council to reverse the motion, claiming there was no legal basis to exclude people's names from the minutes - praised councillors for changing the rule.

She said: "It shows that we have a town council which listens."

Chairman Paul Gardner said: "From now on we will record the names on minutes. We have suggested people ask their name is not included if they wish.

"Clearly it was a strange thing to do. It's particularly helpful for the council to know who people are if they want something done."

Cllr Sue Mason, the only remaining representative from the previous term, voted against the reinstating of names.

She said: "When this was last discussed in March I looked into it very carefully. I looked at other councils and in Nailsea, Clevedon and Weston they do not (include names on minutes)."

North Somerset Council, unlike the aforementioned town councils, does publish public speakers' names in its minutes.

Cllr Steve Temple also voted against naming speakers, highlighting the process of amending minutes after a data protection complaint could be 'horrendous'.

He added: "I think this is probably not in the spirit of the law, but if that's the will of the people I am happy to do it."

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