New powers for Peterborough City Council staff to tackle anti-social behaviour have been unsuccessfully challenged after councillors were left confused by what had been agreed.
The council’s cabinet agreed in December that powers from the police should be transferred to its officers who would be uniformed and could fine people caught cycling in Bridge Street, fly-tipping, parking illegally, drinking on the street or aggressively begging.
But the report the cabinet agreed to push on with was labelled “City Centre Anti-Social Behaviour Enforcement” which led to confusion as the new powers were to be used across the whole city and not just part of it.
And to add to the problem, a second cabinet report then had to be introduced to make it clear that the new “safety and enforcement” teams were for the entirety of Peterborough, but this too was labelled “city centre” because the same title had to be used.
However, this was then called-in by four councillors who were critical of the decision-making process and wanted to know why the cabinet had agreed the new teams before the report had been scrutinised by councillors.
The four councillors were Councillor Ed Murphy, Cllr Nick Sandford, Cllr Mohammed Jamil and Cllr Asif Shaheed, and their hopes for the call-in were to see the decision reconsidered.
Addressing a council scrutiny committee, Cllr Sandford said: “This is a massive public concern. Anyone looking at the report would see city centre. The cabinet should be operating clear and consistent procedure.
“There’s this confusion that surrounds this whole process and it’s clear no consultation happened.
“I would say it was a shambolic decision-making process.”
Cllr Jamil said: “I think there are merits in this scheme but what I’m troubled by is the way we’ve reached this state.
“If the council had consulted we may have reached the same conclusion, but the people of Peterorough would have had their say.”
Cllr Murphy said: “If this is a decision that affects the whole council then I would argue it is significant and naturally is a key decision and therefore proper consultation should have taken place. Decisions must be seen to be transparent.”
Responding to the call-in was the council’s director of governance, Kim Sawyer, who said because existing powers were being used it did not make the alteration a key decision.
Therefore, it did not need to go to a scrutiny committee before being approved by the cabinet.
She added: “We had a paper entitled ‘city centre enforcement’ come before cabinet. During the course of the debate it was clear there were plans to make the enforcement wider.
“There was fault because the decision was incorrectly published - as it referred to the city centre - as it had not captured the sense of the meeting.
“When we realised the mistake of the publication we took the view that it should be republished.”
Members on the scrutiny committee then took it in turns to give their thoughts on what had happened, with the Conservatives opposing the call-in and Labour members wanting the decision looked in to.
Cllr Chris Ash, a Liberal Party member, said: “In the report and transcript there was no clarity that cabinet knew they were making a decision that was city-wide.”
Cllr Lynne Ayres said: “I think this call-in was premature.”
Cllr Pedro Faustino said: “The administrative error is worrying and we need to make sure it does not happen in the future. Nevertheless, I fully accept the explanations from all departments involved and I am satisfied it’s a transparent decision.”
Cllr Ray Bisby said: “I believe a lot of this is people taking the policing aspect of this which is not relevant to the decision made. It’s just a concept and I do not think it’s a key decision.”
Cllr Stuart Martin said: “There seems to be an awful lot of confusion. This is something that affects the whole city and I can’t understand how it cannot be a key decision.”
Cllr Lisa Forbes said: “It seems to me it was a city centre scheme and I think it is a key decision. I think there’s a lot of merit to what’s been proposed, but I’m looking at why it’s been called-in and I will support upholding it.”
The call-in was defeated after a vote.