A DECISION to exclude the public and press from a debate on a future meeting with Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding has been defended by Saddleworth Parish Council (SPC) chair Cllr Rob Knotts.
Local councillors are keen to open talks with Cllr Fielding following his criticism of parish councils during September’s full Oldham Council meeting.
The topic was placed on SPC’s agenda for their October meeting on Monday, October 22.
But councillors narrowly voted in favour to remove Independent editor Trevor Baxter plus members of Saddleworth Youth Council, the public and two university students who were observing proceedings at the Civic Hall in Uppermill as part of their political studies.
The exclusion resulted in Cllr Keith Lucas walking out of the meeting in anger and not returning when it re-convened around 10 minutes later.
Addressing the group later Cllr Knotts said: “Our concern is we have a lot of issues to address with Cllr Fielding.
“The first person who has got to hear of those is Cllr Fielding, not through the public or through the newspapers.
“That obviously is important at a later stage but the first person who has got to be aware of what we want to discuss is Cllr Fielding.
“That’s why the proposal was made to me just before I came into the meeting by one of our councillors to exclude press and public.
“You can understand I hope why we took this move. We could not have Cllr Fielding hearing of these issues second hand. It would be bad manners.”
Following the conclusion of the meeting a separate informal discussion was held behind closed doors to discuss the Parish Council’s invitation to Cllr Fielding for talks.
Cllr Lucas said later: “I don’t believe (as far as I was aware) that discussing the issue of a meeting with the leader of Oldham Council would break any confidence.
“Far from it. It would have shown the Parish Council as forward looking in its approach; and the public and Youth Council members in attendance would have witnessed a confident parish council open to debate and making the public aware of an important step in local democracy, ie open dialogue.
“The parish council missed a golden opportunity to make the public aware that the parish council was starting a serious dialogue with OMBC. Instead pomposity ruled.”
• The Independent was also stopped from attending the latter stages of the parish council’s communications committee on the same evening.
• The parish council holds its next full council meeting on Monday, November 26, starting at 7.30pm.
Members of the public are welcome to attend.
Any questions must be submitted in writing to the Clerk two full working days prior to the day of the meeting by email to: Pam@saddleworthparishcouncil.org.uk or by post: Saddleworth Parish Council, Civic Hall, Lee Street, Uppermill, Saddleworth, OL3 6AE.