Previously the lead member for any of the political groups on a committee could “refer up” a decision to full council for further debate, if they felt a mistake had been made or more information was needed to make a properly informed decision. Only a few months ago this safety check was used when the planning committee initially decided to approve the planning application for Top Yard in Westerleigh. Given the chance to review their report and consider case law, officers changed their recommendation from approval to refusal and the application was eventually refused. If our former colleague Alan Lawrance had not had the opportunity to refer up the original decision the application would have been approved and there would have been no way to overturn that.
By referring a decision up to council it also gave a chance for concerned members of the public to go along and have their say. Almost every council in the country has some ability for minority political groups to force administrations to think again. Obviously ultimately the majority view will prevail, as you would expect in a democracy. Sometimes though, having heard differing views or got more information, they make a different decision from their original one. Isn’t that also something you would expect in a democracy? As we saw with Top Yard, referring up was one way to help the council make better decisions. Why is the new administration afraid of that scrutiny?