Lib Dem accuses East Cambs Council of being ‘anti-democratic’ as they vote to exclude press and public from debate on Mepal Outdoor Centre
PUBLISHED: 13:21 02 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:51 02 August 2020
A Lib Dem councillor angrily denounced Tory controlled East Cambs Council for debating the future of Mepal Outdoor Centre behind closed doors.
Cllr Simon Harries described it as “anti-democratic” and accused council leader Anna Bailey of adopting her “usual bullying style” to brush aside criticism.
He was speaking during the opening of an extraordinary meeting of the council called to discuss the future of a council ‘asset” at Mepal.
Opposition councillors were forced to remain tight-lipped about the proposals ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Only when the Ely Standard exclusively broke details of what was being planned – a crematorium on the site of the outdoor centre at Mepal – did the public become aware.
Cllr Harries urged councillors to support a Lib Dem motion to separate debate to allow the principles for future use of the centre to be scrutinised in public.
“It is completely disgraceful,” he said. “If you have any interest in democracy at all you will vote to have a properly scrutinised debate and not be rail-roaded by numbers yet again.”
Cllr Bailey argued to keep the entire matter confidential and said it was “typical Lib Dem behaviour to defer and delay”.
The being was “classic exempt material” and impossible to separate out element of it.
“The very nature of the proposal would be put at serious risk by discussing this in open session,” she said.
Lib Dem Mark Inskip proposed an adjournment and as ward councillor for Mepal found it “unacceptable” to have the entire meeting behind closed doors.
“The basic tenet of democracy is to keep debate as open and transparent as possible,” he said. Power must be used sparingly “and tonight we are not using that power sparingly”.
Residents were concerned and angry about the leaked reports about the outdoor centre but he was banned from commenting.
“It is wrong to have the entire debate behind closed doors- I cannot justify this to my residents and I think you will struggle to justify it to yours,” he said.
It took recorded votes, and some spirited debate, but East Cambs District Council finally voted successfully to exclude the press and public.
Cllr Bailey again emphasised that any delay “would put the project at serious risk”.
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