We understand there has been some confused, even incorrect, messages put out on Social Media since the Budget vote was undertaken in Full Council on 27th February 2018.
Gail and Jason have, therefore, requested clarification from Newport City Council’s Head of Law & Regulation and received the following information:
“ From my recollection, the Budget was carried by a majority vote, with the Labour Councillors voting for the recommended budget and the Opposition members abstaining. I do not believe that any member actually voted against the budget, as that could have been unlawful, for the following reasons:-
- The Council has a legal duty to set a balanced budget on or before 11th March, under the Local Government Finance Act 1992. Failure to do this is unlawful and leaves the Council open to challenge by way of judicial review or intervention/direction by the Welsh Government.
- Failure to set a balanced budget and, in particular, setting the Council tax rate, would have significant financial consequences for the Council. There would be issues with the collection and recovery of council tax and also other precepts, but we would still have liabilities for expenditure and running services.
- Therefore, Councillors who deliberately voted against the proposed budget, knowing that this was unlawful, would be in breach of their fiduciary duty and also the Members Code of Conduct. Also, although individual surcharge was abolished back in 2000, Councillors could in extreme cases still be liable for wilful misconduct in public office if their deliberate refusal to set a balanced budget caused the Council to incur financial losses.
- There was only one budget motion before full Council in February, to set the Council tax rate and the base budget figures, because no alternative proposals to the Cabinet recommendations were moved by the Opposition. Therefore, if anyone had voted against the substantive motion, then this would effectively have been a vote not to set the Council tax and not to set a balanced budget – which would have been unlawful. For that reason, I believe that Opposition members just abstained.
- The other point is that the Council resolution just sets the council tax rate and the base budget – it’s then a matter for Cabinet/Cabinet Member/ Chief Officers to work within those budgets. So, individual savings proposals and business cases (for example the closure of public toilets) would be matters for the executive to decide, not full Council. Therefore, full Council was not voting on the individual savings proposals”.
So any Councillors who deliberately voted against the proposed budget, knowing that this was unlawful, would be in breach of their fiduciary duty and also the Members Code of Conduct. It is not, therefore, believed that any member actually voted against the budget, as that could have been unlawful.
Once the Budget was agreed, as described above, Jason and I immediately arranged to meet with the Leader of Newport City Council, the Cabinet Member and senior officers to find a means of maintaining public toilets in Caerleon. As a result of months of on-going discussions and negotiations the town hall toilets have been made available ( for more hours than the old toilet block ) and we have also supported the use of the cricket pavilion by the National Roman Legion Museum (while their renovations are underway) enabling, with the Museum’s and CADW’s assistance, the public toilets in Broadway to also be available.
We haven’t just demanded action, we have acted.
And we will continue to seek long term solutions despite the on-going austerity cuts forced on Newport City Council by the UK Tory Government over the last eight years, the longest recorded period of austerity since the Napoleonic times.
For the summary statement, visit our Facebook page.
The Minutes of the Budget meeting can be viewed on: https://democracy.newport.gov.uk/documents/