Agenda item

Reference from Council - Motion - Access to Information


The Committee considered the Reference from Council on a Motion which related to Access to Information.


The Head of Policy, Communications and Governance referred the Committee to the Briefing Note set out in Appendix A to the report which outlined the rights of Members to exempt information. 


The Committee was informed that the Motion removed the ‘need to know’ test by suggesting that Councillors should be given access to all Council documentation by virtue of their decision as a Councillor.  Following the discussion at the meeting and the proposal of additional amendments for the Committee to consider, external Counsel advice was sought on the matter. 


The Head of Policy, Communications and Governance explained that the external advice was clear in that to pass such a Motion to allow Councillors to request such information, without demonstrating a need to know basis, went beyond the boundaries of the law.  Such a change would not be legally compliable if agreed. 


The Head of Legal Partnership provided further clarification in regard to the Counsel’s Opinion and in summary concluded that the proposal, as set out in the Motion, went beyond the statutory requirements of the law.


In response to a question from a Member, the Head of Policy, Communications and Governance advised that when Councillors had requested exempt information previously, each case was taken on its own merits.   Ordinarily if a report was commercially sensitive then it would not be available to all Members unless there was ‘a need to know basis’, however if a decision on a report would affect a particular Ward, then those Ward Members would be alerted by Officers.


The Head of Legal Partnership emphasised that there was no automatic right to access to exempt information and that the Proper Officer must consider each request.


RESOLVED:  That following Counsel’s Opinion, the Motion would not be progressed.






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