Cllr Steve Norman
Cllr Steve Norman

The opposition Labour leader has called for changes to the way voting is carried out after a controversial meeting at Lichfield District Council.

A debate on the Lichfield city centre masterplan at an overview and scrutiny committee meeting saw the result of a vote declared which indicated councillors had voted against it.

But the local authority subsequently reviewed the video footage of the meeting and judged that the show of hands was actually in favour of the masterplan.

Cllr Steve Norman, leader of the Labour opposition group, said:

“For future meetings members should be asked to ‘raise their hand’ when the vote was called for as opposed to waving at the camera.

“I always think a hand clap was best if it is regarded as a vote, as that can be seen by all members and the public, although I realise that they disappear after a short while – and possibly before the count is done if it looks close.

“The other way is using a named vote where each member is asked if they are for against a recommendation.”

Cllr Steve Norman, Lichfield District Council

The fall-out of the vote has seen one overview and scrutiny chairman resign from the role.

Cllr Alastair Little
Cllr Alastair Little

Cllr Alastair Little – who voted against the masterplan over financial concerns – had questioned the decision to alter the result of the vote announced at the meeting.

“The vote at the last committee was announced by the chairman but has been withdrawn by an officer – I can’t see how this is democratic.

“I would like to hear from the committee chairman prior to the results being changed.

“It would be far better for an internal investigation to happen at officer level including views of members, rather than statements being released ad hoc.”

Cllr Alastair Little, Lichfield District Council

“It is important that the public have confidence in the result”

Christie Tims, monitoring officer for Lichfield District Council, said “technical issues” were to blame for a show of hands not being counted correctly.

“Unfortunately, due to technical issues, the vote was announced inaccurately.

“As monitoring officer, I have reviewed the recording of the meeting, and I can confirm that six members voted in favour of endorsing the plan and five voted against it, rather than four voting in favour and five against as was announced at the meeting.

“The minutes from the meeting will reflect this true result and will need to be signed as a correct record when the committee meets again.

“We are now reviewing the process of how we hold remote meeting votes, to make sure there is no confusion while remaining transparent to viewers.

“We will be updating our guidance and procedures and working with members to make sure they understand the changes.”

Christie Tims, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Norman said the council needed to ensure all processes were being followed correctly.

“It is important that members of the viewing public have confidence in the result.

“The problem with the chairman’s proposal to support the recommendation is that he did not have a seconder – and neither did Cllr Little on the three occasions he tried to move to a vote against – but the chairman can vote of course twice in the event of a tie.

“It is unfortunate that there needed to be a vote at all at a scrutiny meeting of course.”

Cllr Steve Norman, Lichfield District Council

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

One reply on “Lichfield District Council opposition group leader calls for changes to voting process after result is changed due to counting error”

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  1. I suggested following Cambridgeshire County Council’s example that I had researched, as they only recently had an Annual Council meeting, where the Chairman asked each member to say ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Abstain’. We shall be doing this for Planning and Full Council meetings for example and hope a show of hands where there is an obvious consensus is all that is needed in other situations.
    It is not that easy to take part in a virtual meeting when you might need another screen to view reports and where some members’ Internet connection maybe delayed or frozen. Even more difficult for the Chairman of a large meeting.

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