Questions on Notice under Standing Order No 6 (Agenda item 6)
Councillor Tim Birt had submitted a question on notice which had been sent to Members in the form of a supplementary agenda. The response had been included.
The Chairman asked Councillor Birt if had a supplementary question he would like to ask that related to his original question.
With regards to the boat disposal, the floating restaurant in Thetford, Councillor Birt declared that he had been a registered bidder at this particular auction but had bid on other lots and not on the boat.
The written response that he had received had made a great deal of effort, in his opinion, to attempt to justify why a twitter account in the name of the Leader was not his personal account. He felt that twitter was not an official way to disclose expenditure when the monies involved came collectively from the residents of the district. There should have been an Officer report or a member briefing on this matter particularly as this was going to be in the public arena. The Leader had stated in his response that it was not in the Council’s best interests for the floating restaurant to be reopened and yet had paid well over the guide price.
The Chairman interrupted Councillor Birt at this point but understood what he was trying to get across, but it was supposed to be a question not a statement and reminded Councillor Birt that he was allowed one supplementary question only.
Councillor Birt then asked the Leader how this complied with the asset disposal regulations set out within the Council’s Constitution.
The Leader felt that he had already responded satisfactorily but he would follow up this supplementary question in writing. He pointed out that Thetford Members had been very supportive with the Councils direct intervention for the removal of the boat and Councillor Jermy, the Leader of the Labour Group and a Thetford Member had been very supportive of the action taken. In respect of the financial cost, it had been advertised on the auction site and the delegation within the Constitution allowed that type of activity to happen within budget. This asset had not been purchased for the Council to use as it was for regeneration purposes only and therefore fell out of the parameters of disposal. The price had been higher than expected but Breckland Council was committed across all five of its market towns to have direct intervention when it was financially practical to do so and within budget and within its Constitution. If outside the framework, it would have to go through the correct procedures to ensure that a budget was in place and with Council or Cabinet approval if required.
Councillor Birt raised a point of order under the said part of the Constitution and asked the Monitoring Officer to investigate.
Rob Walker, the Executive Director of Place & Delivery and the Council’s Monitoring Officer asked Councillor Birt to explain the section in the Constitution that he was referring to.
The Chairman reminded Members of the correct procedure for raising a point of order.
Councillor Birt provided the Chairman with the relevant details, page 151 of the Constitution, Section 3.7.
It was agreed that the Monitoring Officer would provide Councillor Birt with a written response.