THE findings of a review into the circumstances that led to a BCP Council meeting being adjourned due to a health and safety risk assessment will not be published.

Opposition and independent councillors have said it is not acceptable for the issue to be “brushed under the carpet”.

As reported, the full council meeting at Bournemouth Town Hall on April 26 was adjourned midway through proceedings and only resumed this week on May 10.

It had been claimed that two Conservative councillors, who had allegedly tested positive for Covid, arrived in the chamber during a short break in proceedings.

The agenda item members had been discussing was not resumed that evening and a adjournment was hastily moved and agreed.

The following day chief executive Graham Farrant said officers were reviewing the events with the chair and council members, but details on the health and safety issues that sparked the adjournemt could not be disclosed in any more detail due to data protection.

Opposition councillors called for an investigation into matters and at last Tuesday’s full council meetings it appeared members believed this was still ongoing.

However, the Daily Echo has now been told a review of the “sequence of events” that led to the adjournment being moved and agreed was carried out by leader Cllr Drew Mellor and the chief executive.

In a statement, Cllr Mellor said: “An adjournment of this sort is entirely legitimate, and the procedure is set out at paragraph 13.16 on page 4-49 of the council's constitution.

Bournemouth Echo: Councillor Drew MellorCouncillor Drew Mellor (Image: BCP Council)

“During the meeting it became clear that the meeting protocols had not been fully updated to reflect the updated government guidance, which led to some confusion.

"Having carried out a dynamic assessment of the situation, an adjournment to May 10 was agreed to enable appropriate adjustments to those protocols to be provided.”

On Tuesday, the leader said members of his administration followed Covid guidance to “the letter and the spirit”.

Labour councillor George Farquhar told the Daily Echo he was left “almost speechless” by the handling of the situation.

“They are dancing on the head of a pin of semantics,” said Cllr Farquhar.

Bournemouth Echo: Councillor George FarquharCouncillor George Farquhar

He added: “I am absolutely appalled that this is going to allowed to pass unanswered.”

Independent councillor Stephen Bartlett said the “complete disparity” between the position of opposition groups and the council leader required a full investigation, which “needs to be made public”.

He said it was his understanding an investigation was taking place.

“This is a serious issue and it cannot be brushed under the carpet,” said Cllr Bartlett.

Liberal Democrat councillor and former council leader Vikki Slade said: “It is the residents’ council, not ours. We just represent them.

“We need to know what happened as do the residents of BCP.”

Councillor Mellor said the review had led to three changes:

  • Updated our Covid-19 control advice and restricted that to signposting the government advice rather than trying to reinterpret it.
  • Ensured that all our internal Covid-19 policies and practices are in line with the current government advice and do not go beyond that.
  • Provided greater flexibility, within the constraints of the existing law, for councillors to attend and be comfortable at council and committee meetings - there are different rules for different meetings (e.g. planning and licensing).

The Conservative group leader said: “Building on the outcomes of the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge, the leader and chief executive have been exploring how we can be clear about how a large-scale and dynamic member-led council such as BCP Council should function for best effect for our communities.”

The council failed to address the following questions from the Daily Echo in Cllr Mellor’s response:

  • Why was it not communicated from the outset that the findings of the review would not be made public?
  • Does the council consider not publishing its findings appropriate in the interests of openness and transparency?