Let’s Talk Pencil-Pusher: Lesson VII—Vocabulary (Seventh of a series, translating bureaucrat-speak into what it means for folk in East Lothian)
Continue: Usually heard in committee meetings, continuing simply means delaying any decision until the next meeting. It can mean some official’s minor mistake but more often a breakdown in the usually smooth political process.
Homologation: During the summer recess the council does not meet. Decisions must still be made but then ratified or homologated at the next meeting. Look out, though, for this being a fait accompli; once taken, decisions are never reversed.
PPP (Public-Private Partnership): a New Labour trick with private investment that doesn’t show as public debt. It’s poor long-term value: East Lothian’s schools PPP provided £57m of investment. Over 30 years, this will cost EL’s taxpayers £160m.
Quorum: The number of members who must be present to make any meeting competent. Usually 50%+1, this can still mean a ‘bum’s rush’ from a small group.
Redact: to block out sensitive information on documents not normally public. FOI requests can probe deep: the more blocked out, the closer to the truth FOI is getting.
Scrutiny: Each council is expected to run scrutiny panels. ELC now runs an Audit & Governance PRP (chaired by a Tory) and a ‘General Operation’ PRP (chaired by Labour); both now meet in public. Labour did it all in camera with Labour chairs.
Ultra Vires: Latin for ‘beyond the competence’ or, more generally, things outside of a council’s control. This used to be an excuse for lack of action but the Power of General Competence means anything is OK that doesn’t interfere with the law or government.
Vire: Small word, big impact. Once a budget is set, funds allocated cannot be shifted among departments. Viring is a red flag that someone got the budget badly wrong.