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Editor thwarts illegal council meeting with moments to spare

Neil SpeightAn editor stopped an illegal council meeting from going ahead – just moments before it was due to begin.

Neil Speight, who edits Thurrock Nub News, intervened to point out the meeting of Thurrock Council’s cabinet was against the law after the authority failed to publicise a change of venue to the public.

Neil, pictured, spoke out before the meeting was due to begin after previously contacting the council to inform officers they had wrongly listed the venue as the council chamber of the Civic Offices, in Grays.

The offices have recently been hit by flooding and the meeting was therefore moved to the nearby Beehive Community Resource Centre, but the authority failed to list the centre as the venue before the meeting took place.

As it was due to start, Neil raised his hand to inform the councillors and officers present of the meeting’s status – meaning any decisions reached might not be legal and could be open to dispute.

The Local Government Act 1972 states notice of the time and place of an intended meeting should be published at the council’s offices three clear days in advance.

Council leader Rob Gledhill immediately went into private consultation with council chief executive Lyn Carpenter and its legal and monitoring officer and assistant director Ian Hunt, who concluded Neil’s assertion was correct.

Councillor Gledhill then announced the meeting was not legal and had to be called off after a further brief meeting, behind closed doors, with cabinet members.

Neil said: “The continued incompetence of this administration and its senior officer cohort who stagger from ineptitude to embarrassment with increasing regularity is of grave concern.”

He added: “I took no joy in pointing out this latest blunder and I apologise that by running shotgun on procedure it meant councillors wasted their evening but in these troubled times at Thurrock Council, I felt it important to make the salient point that the administration of this council is simply not good enough.”

In a statement, the council told Nub News: “An administrative error in listing the venue meant that the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 13 October 2021 could not go ahead as it would not have been lawful.

“All items on the agenda will be dealt with in accordance with Thurrock Council’s constitution. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”