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Meridian Water: Distorting the minutes to avoid scrutiny

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At a scrutiny panel meeting in November 2021 Cllr Charith Gunarwardena and others queried council officers about important aspects of the Meridian Water regeneration project. Many questions and answers are missing from the official published minutes and subsequent attempts to correct the record have been voted down by Labour councillors.

What are they trying to hide?

Councillor Gunawardena was a member of Enfield Council’s ‘Regeneration & Economic Development Scrutiny Panel’ between June 2021 and March 2022.

In November 2021, he attended a meeting of this scrutiny panel regarding the Council’s Meridian Water regeneration scheme, and the Council’s planning service. During this meeting councillors asked officers questions to clarify a number of critical issues.

However, when the minutes were published, a lot of the key information from the meeting was missing and had not been formally recorded in the minutes. All opposition members who attended the meeting agreed that the minutes were deficient.

For example, councillors had expressed concerns about the accessibility of the new parks at Meridian Water, because of the retail and industrial estates that would be situated between where the homes were located and the parks themselves. Officers accepted that this was an issue and something they were trying to find ways to resolve. However this, and many other important issues that were discussed at the meeting were not properly recorded in the minutes.

Cllr Gunawardena wrote to the Chair of the panel, to request that the minutes be updated so that they more actually reflected the meeting and captured more of the discussion that took place. (A copy of this email is below).

The chair refused to discuss the changes to the minutes when the panel met in February, but they were eventually discussed at the final meeting of the panel in March. During this meeting the Labour party members of the panel voted against updating the minutes and blocked Cllr Gunawardena’s suggested changes.

One claimed that the amended minutes were not a “true reflection” of the meeting, but he is mistaken, they were entirely true. He also said that he could not agree to them because officers’ names should not be mentioned in minutes, which is absurd; officer’s names are regularly mentioned in the minutes of council meetings, including minutes the panel member has himself approved.

Both panel members from the majority party also claimed they could not agree to the minutes because they said that each individual comment made by a councillor needed to be associated with a specific councillor, which again is simply not the case.

It seems that Labour councillors were playing politics and making false claims in order to prevent a proper written record of this scrutiny meeting from being published.

It is unacceptable for them to behave this way. Public scrutiny is an essential part of democracy in local government and is protected by law, yet these two councillors appear to think it is nevertheless appropriate for them to play games in order to obstruct the scrutiny process.

The email sent to the Chair is below so that there is now at least a published public record of what was actually discussed at this meeting.

But this still leaves an uncomfortable question, that needs an answer. What plausible reason could these two councillors have for going to such absurd lengths to stop this information from being published? What are they trying to hide?

 

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