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Council discuss funding bid in private during first virtual cabinet meeting

PUBLISHED: 17:58 20 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:58 20 May 2020

West Norfolk Council retreated into private session after its first virtual public meeting lasted just nine minutes. Photo: Archant/YouTube/Zoom

West Norfolk Council retreated into private session after its first virtual public meeting lasted just nine minutes. Photo: Archant/YouTube/Zoom

Archant

A Norfolk council has retreated into private session after its first virtual public meeting lasted just nine minutes.

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (KLWNBC) held its first remote cabinet meeting since the lockdown began this afternoon, Wednesday, May 20.

And the meeting, held via teleconferencing software Zoom, and broadcast live on the council’s YouTube channel, saw cabinet members gather to discuss an exempt item on the King’s Lynn Future High Streets Fund, after the government last year invited councils to bid for a slice of a £675m funding pot to revitalise high streets up and down the UK.

READ MORE: Will lockdown rules impact local democracy and accountability of our councils?

A survey on the town’s high street revealed almost 40pc were dissatisfied with what was on offer, with residents keen for empty buildings to be refurbished and let out as pop-up shops.

If an agenda item is deemed exempt, the council is entitled to discuss the matter in private.

Legislation on local government openness and accountability sets out the rules around exemptions.

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To qualify as exempt, a matter for discussion must, for example, reveal an individual’s identity, relate to financial or business affairs (including of the council), or be connected to investigation or prosecution of crime - amid others.

READ MORE: Could £675m high street funding pot be the answer to town centre woes?

Deputy council leader Elizabeth Nockolds (Cons) asked the cabinet “to consider excluding the public from the meeting for consideration of the item below on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information, and the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information”.

After the motion was passed, council leader Brian Long (Cons), said: “Unfortunately this item does need to be dealt with in private, so I would ask if we could now end the YouTube livestream.”

The public meeting began at 3.13pm and ended at 3.22pm.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Long said: “We’re talking about people’s private business and people who are other than the council, so it’s not public information. That needs to be dealt with below the line.

“In normal meetings that we hold in normal circumstances, if we get to an item on the agenda we have to deal with without the press and public involved, we would also go below the line.”

And he added: “I look forward to the point that detail on this bid can be made public.”

READ MORE: Pledge to improve town centre as polls show 39pc of shoppers ‘dissatisfied’


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