Peter Lilley Hits Out at Attempts to Stop Councilors Attending Hitchin Town Centre Protest Meeting

- Wednesday, 23rd January 2013


Stop hand gesture.

Peter Lilley MP raised in Parliament how "absurdly strict" interpretations of the law are being used to discourage local Councilors in North Herts from listening to local concerns about plans to redevelop Hitchin town centre. Councilors were warned by an unelected Council official that if they attended a public protest meeting organized by 'Keep Hitchin Special' on 22 January 2013 they could be deemed to have made up their minds in advance and so be ineligible to take part in the subsequent Council vote on the issue.


During a debate about how the law on standards is being misused to stifle informed debate, Peter Lilley said “There are many instances in which the rules of the Localism Act have been interpreted in a heavy-handed fashion. Councillors in Hitchin have been advised that if they attend a meeting held to protest about plans for redevelopment of the city centre in Hitchin, they may be deemed to have fettered their discretion, even if they announce when attending that meeting that they will not allow it to do so." He asked Bob Neill MP, the former Local Government minister who had brought in the new Localism Act intended to ease the problem, "to confirm that the advice given to North Herts Councilors is absolutely not the intention of the legislation?"


Mr Neill responded that, “it was frankly nonsense to interpret the legislation in that manner. This is an example of a situation that most people with common sense would regard as nonsense. Rather than supporting local democracy, such cases undermine it….the government do not intend the code to lead to that form of inhibition.”


“Councillors should be able to hear the views of their constituents,” says Lilley. “Any interpretation of the law that suggests otherwise is quite simply wrong. We are fortunate to have many excellent local Councillors who rightly want to hear about the concerns of people they represent. They should not be discouraged from doing so.”


Notes to Editors:


Section 25 of the Localism Act 2011 reads:


“A decision-maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making the decision just because the decision-maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took, or would or might take, in relation to a matter.”


The full transcript of the debate can be found here: halltext/130116h0001.htm#13011644000188



Current Location:


Home / Press Releases / 2013

Peter Lilley Hits Out at Attempts to Stop Councilors Attending Hitchin Town Centre Protest Meeting


Search this Site



Contact Peter Lilley MP: