Anger at move which could see elected councillors excluded from Norfolk County Council meetings

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Opposition councillors have reacted angrily after changes at Norfolk County Council mean they will be excluded from attending parts of County Hall meetings.

As part of changes associated with the Conservative-controlled council switching from a committee to a cabinet system, alterations are being made to the council's constitution.

One of those changes, agreed by the full council despite opposition today, is that elected councillors without cabinet roles be excluded from meetings with the public when confidential items are discussed.

Just last week, members of the council's corporate select committee voted against the proposal, with some arguing it would have resulted in the council being less transparent.

But council leader Andrew Proctor told the full council he was intending to be open and transparent.

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He said his intention was that as much information as possible would be dealt with "above the line", without need for exclusion.

He said only in certain circumstances, where commercially confidential information needed to be discussed, would exclusion be necessary.

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Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors raised concerns over that move.

Labour's Chris Jones questioned whether such exclusion of councillors was legal, but Mr Proctor said the legal advice the council has been given was that it was.

He said: "What this is trying to do is to manage a meeting, so we get the information that is relevant to that meeting and those entitled to be there to deal with that particular matter."

Labour opposition leader Steve Morphew said he was increasingly uncomfortable and asked for the matter to be deferred for further discussion.

And independent Alexandra Kemp said it risked the sort of scenario which led to a contract for an incinerator being agreed for Saddlebow in King's Lynn, which went on to cost the council millions in compensation when the plug was pulled on the project.

But it was agreed, by 47 votes for, 27 against and one abstention.

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