Council flies in the face of advice – and its neighbours – and cancels public meetings

Thurrock Council CEO Lyn Carpenter has often found herself in the spotlight, accused of challenging the democratic process. Now she is shutting down public meetings for the general election period despite being advised by the Local Government Association to carry on as normal - but maybe secrecy is normal for Thurrock!

SECRECY-loving Thurrock Council and its chief executive has flown in the face of guidance from the Local Government Association and almost all council discussions open to the public have been cancelled in the borough due to the general election.

The proposal came from chief executive Lyn Carpenter, despite there not being any rules that require such a significant shut down.

The council has confirmed to the Local Democracy Reporting Service that from November 11 almost every council meeting will be cancelled – including the final two cabinet meetings of 2019.

It comes despite other authorities in the region, including Southend Council and Basildon Council, confirming they have no plans to cancel meetings.

When Thurrock Council was asked why they had made the decision, a spokesman said: “Thurrock Council has cancelled all meetings taking place in the upcoming pre-election period, which starts on November 11 and lasts up to the close of poll at 10pm on 12 December.

“The only exceptions will be planning committee, licensing sub-committee, general services committee and an extraordinary full council meeting taking place on November 27.

“This has been done in agreement with the group leaders of all parties.”

In total nine meetings will be scrapped, including committees that centre around scrutinising housing, public safety and the environment.

Cabinet meetings, which see council leaders making a range of vital decisions on council policy, are also cancelled for both November and December with no plans for another meeting until January 15.

It comes just two weeks after a full council meeting where councillors agreed that measures should be explored that prevent the council from shutting down during pre-election periods – commonly referred to as ‘purdah’.

Lyn Carpenter

Cllr Jane Pothecary, leader of Thurrock Labour, said: “This was the proposal set out by the chief executive on the basis of precedent here in Thurrock.

“Following a General Services Committee last month, it was agreed there will be a review of purdah and what it should mean, but that won’t report until March.

“There are some key deadlines the council needs to hit in terms of important decisions but the chief executive has assured us there are plans set out to make sure this happens.”

The Local Government Association, which Thurrock is a member of, stated in guidance published on Wednesday that councils should “continue to discharge normal council business”.

It adds: “Local government sometimes views this period as a time when communications has to shut down completely. This is not the case, and the ordinary functions of councils can continue.”


Postman Dean Martin delivers the writ to Mayor, Cllr Terry Piccolo

Thurrock Council has been formally notified of the upcoming general election as the Mayor received the election writ sent by the Clerk of the Crown of the Chancery. 

Following the dissolution of Parliament a writ of election is sent to all constituencies declaring that an election must take place and setting the date on which polling will be held. 

As a servant of the crown Mayor of Thurrock, Cllr Terry Piccolo, formally received the writ this morning (7 November). 

Polling will take place on Thursday 12 December. Anyone not registered to vote needs to apply at gov.uk/register-to-vote before midnight on Tuesday 26 November. 

Those who want to make a postal vote must register by 5pm on Tuesday 26 November. More details can be found at thurrock.gov.uk/voting-and-registering-to-vote/voting-by-post