27: Parliamo Politico VII

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.

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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