A lively debate over Bedford Borough Council’s constitution was suddenly taken off the air when the live feed of its Full Meeting was cut without warning.
The live stream of the meeting on Wednesday (1 December) was replaced by the council’s crest for over seven minutes after cutting off Cllr Kay Burley (Labour, Kempston Central & East Ward) mid-sentence.
After a motion submitted by Cllr Abu Sultan (Labour, Cauldwell Ward) was superseded by an amendment from Cllr Michael Headley (LibDems, Putnoe Ward), Cllr Burley attempted to move a further amendment to reinstate one of the bullet points from the original motion.
“It’s the fifth bullet point, which calls on the Local Government Association to make urgent representations to central government to fund the NJC pay claim directly from central government,” she said.
Cllr Graeme Coombes (Conservative, Wilshamstead Ward) asked: “Can we actually put something back in which, as a council, we’ve just voted out by way of an amendment?
“I don’t know if you can do that, otherwise we could be here all night just ping-ponging it backwards and forwards.”
Cllr Henry Vann (LibDems, De Parys Ward) suggested that the constitution put a minimum wait of six months before a rejected motion could go before the council again.
The monitoring officer said: “That’s not applicable, under the constitution item 17.12 rules of debate, if an amendment is carried the motion as amended takes the place of the original motion.
“The constitution, as it stands, that the person who put the original motion can ask for a further amendment so on that basis you can add another amendment,” she said.
Cllr Coombes said: “I think the monitoring officer is misinterpreting it.
“The original motion is now changed, and the motion as amended is now the motion, and I believe also the proposer of the amendments owns the motion as well, it’s their motion.”
Cllr Tim Caswell (LibDems, Goldington Ward) said: “The point that councillor Vann has raised, 10.1, I think, of the constitution clearly states if a motion or amendment has been before the council and has been decided upon or amended, it cannot be reconsidered within six months and with respect, I think that’s what we need guidance on.”
The monitoring officer said she is happy to agree that: “But I have to say that on reading the Constitution, 17.12 would need to be reconsidered. So, happy to stand by 10.1.”
Cllr Burley said: “Are you saying that if I reworded it and didn’t use exactly the same words I could do it?
“The advice that we were given was that we could do it, so I would like some advice.”
Cllr Doug McMurdo (Independent, Sharnbrook Ward) suggested an adjournment, but the speaker could not find anyone to second that. She added that the officers would take a few more minutes to discuss this.
Cllr Burley repeated her request for clarification on whether rewording her amendment would be acceptable.
“Because my understanding and my past experiences is that you can,” she said.
“You can be here all night and some of us have been here in this chamber all night, years gone back.
“So it was at least allowable sometime back, but whether the whole,” the live stream was then cut.
Without referencing why the live feed was cut when it returned, the speaker said: “On discussion and advice from the monitoring officer, I will take 17.9 of the constitution, which is that if an amendment leaves out words, inserts or adds others, or inserts or adds words that negate the motion which is now the amendment that is a substantive then it is not allowed.”
Cllr Sue Oliver (Labour, Kempston North Ward) said: “It’s nice to test these rules from time to time, isn’t it?
“So if, despite having taken advice earlier, we’re not permitted to make this amendment, in the spirit of compromise will councillor Headley consider adding that one additional sentence to his substantive motion?”
Cllr Headley replied: “I don’t think that’s within the constitution and even if it was, having just taken it out, why would I want to put it back in again?”
The substantive amendment to the motion was carried.
A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “The speaker adjourned the meeting for five minutes to enable the monitoring officer to consider a constitutional point and then the meeting resumed, which is on the live stream.
“Unfortunately the live stream cut slightly ahead of the formal adjournment.”