Calderdale Scrutiny Chair’s ‘disgraceful’ refusal of public requests to speak at health and social care meeting

A GP has slammed as “a disgrace” Cllr Blagbrough’s refusal to allow two members of the public to speak at the 19th January meeting of Calderdale Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board.

They had asked the Chair’s permission to speak briefly about the Board’s Detailed Review of General Practice, and scrutiny of the Cabinet’s 2023/24 Budget for Consultation.

The GP said,

“The comments about primary care the member of the public intended to make are absolutely correct.

“Primary care investment has fallen or at least stagnated from a historical low at the same time as rhetoric & un-costed cloud cuckoo plans have proliferated. Another observation is the absence of credible clinical and especially medical leadership leading these ‘plans.’ You can’t plan effective safe services without clinical leadership and direct involvement.”

But according to the Chair, Cllr Blagbrough, the public has no right to speak at Scrutiny Board meetings, because they are meetings open to the public, not public meetings.

The silenced members of the public believe the Chair’s reason is spurious. One said,

“It has always been possible for members of the public to raise their concerns to the various scrutiny boards that meet publicly, but now it seems we can be denied the chance to comment and challenge.“

“Time to get real”

The other (full disclosure: it is me, the author of this blog post) added,

“At a time when the NHS in Calderdale is close to collapse, with Calderdale General Practice in level 4 red alert, alongside the desperate, deadly pressures in our A&E, ambulances, hospital beds and social care, it’s time to get real.

“There are so many holes in the Scrutiny Board’s GP Review and someone needs to point them out, sooner rather than later. Otherwise, what good’s it going to do?

“And why refuse a request for five minutes of the Scrutiny Board’s time? There’s already a slot allocated to the public on the agenda, so why not use it?”

You can read the public deputations here.

Main aim of Health and Social Care Scrutiny is to “strengthen voice of local people”

The Councillors’ Scrutiny Board is tasked with investigating whether local NHS, social care and public health services work in the interests of the Calderdale public, and of the services themselves.

Recent government guidance is that the main aim of Councils’ Health and Social Care Scrutiny is to “strengthen the voice of local people” , particularly regarding

“local priorities for improving health and care services and outcomes…and the quality, safety, accessibility and effectiveness of local health and care services.”

Disputed protocol for “meetings in public”

The silenced members of the public have pointed out that legislation and government guidance governing public participation in meetings in public doesn’t hand Chairs the right to selectively silence people.

Other meetings in public that involve Calderdale Councillors allow all members of the public to speak briefly about any agenda item, as long as they notify the Board in advance

Scrutiny meeting seems to have breached High Court ruling that meetings in public must be open to public attendance

The silenced citizens also point to a High Court ruling that meetings in public must be open to public attendance.

But members of the public were prevented from attending the Calderdale Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board meeting, as it was a virtual, online meeting live-streamed on You Tube.

The High Court has said that this doesn’t satisfy the requirement for the meeting to be “open to the public” or “held in public”.”

The members of the public are appealing to Calderdale Council to follow the law and admit the public to its Adults Health and Social Scrutiny Scrutiny meetings in public. As well as to allow the public to speak briefly at these meetings in public, as they already do elsewhere.

Cllr Blagbrough was invited to comment. He asked for the spelling of his name to be corrected and the original headline altered, in order to avoid his “taking advice”. We have duly amended the headline and spelled his name correctly.

Calderdale Scrutiny was also invited to comment, and replied

‘We are looking into your point 6 [about the High Court ruling], and will respond, but we have been unable to do so immediately.  We will reply as soon as we can.’

Update 9.2.2023 Calderdale Scrutiny says Scrutiny Boards are not bound by the High Court ruling that meetings in public must be open to public attendance

On 30 Jan 2023, Calderdale Scrutiny emailed,

“Here is the Council response to paragraph 6 of your email below.

“Overview and scrutiny committees  are not decision making committees that come within the definition of the 1972 Act. The article you have referred to has, as its title, – “Requirements for meetings under Local Government Act 1972 “.   Our Scrutiny Boards, and those held elsewhere, are not held under that Act and are therefore not bound by the requirements set out in the article.”

I believe the Council is wrong here – it looks as if they’ve only read the article’s headline

The article itself makes it clear that the High Court judge ruled that other Acts also apply to meetings in public – not just the Local Government Act 1972 – and that the various Acts are to be taken together when considering meetings in public. I’ve therefore replied to Calderdale Scrutiny as follows:

Update 26.1.2023 Council’s Governance Committee to discuss allowing public deputations/statements to be made at all scrutiny meetings.

Cllr Mike Barnes, Calderdale Health & Social Care Scrutiny Committee Deputy Chair and a member of Calderdale Council Governance and Business Committee, said that the Scrutiny Chair and he have agreed to bring a paper to the Governance committee’s first meeting in the 2023/24 municipal year, that will allow public deputations/statements to be made at all scrutiny meetings. Rules like 5 mins max and a total of 30 minutes would need to be imposed..

Cllr Barnes added,

“If Governance agree, then it goes to full council for approval.

“The proposal was too late for inclusion in last week’s Governance meeting and the need to get full council approval means this won’t occur pre-purdah”

Purdah (pre-election rules) applies to public bodies’ communications and actions that are likely to influence the outcome of the election. The official pre-election period for Council elections this year starts on 22nd March.


  1. My CCG before it closed down had AOB at the end of meeting but only could only ask questions that were on the agenda but they removed AOB as they didn’t like any questions being asked and so it goes on it seems our voice will never be heard


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