Early wake up call for councillor after resident caught selling petrol from garden at 3am

A Dallow resident selling petrol from his back garden prompted an early wake up call for a Luton borough councillor, a meeting heard.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 4:08 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 7:48 pm

Council officers called ward councillor Abbas Hussain in the middle of the night to explain what was happening as they dealt with the situation.

Councillor Hussain revealed the wake up call as Luton Borough Council discussed a new communications strategy between officers and councillors.

"Around my Dallow ward, members have been notified about stuff happening even at 3am," councillor Hussain told the council's constitution committee.

A Luton resident was caught selling petrol from his garden at 3am

"A health and safety issue happened just before Christmas on Malvern Road, where there was someone selling petrol at the back of his garden.

"I was notified by the service director at about 3.30am, as a ward councillor."

The council's monitoring officer, Angela Claridge, responded: "I'm sure we wouldn't intend to contact members at 3am on many occasions.

"It would have to be an absolute emergency. This should already be in place with officers.

"Essentially, it's purpose is to ensure councillors are appropriately briefed on key relevant items in their ward and possibly neighbouring ones.

"In the majority of cases this happens anyway, but this protocol is to avoid any ambiguity for members or officers.

"The original focus in 2019 was really on highways and infrastructure projects," she said.

"When we did more research, we could see other local authorities had a much broader remit and it seemed sensible for us to replicate that.

"But this was before the pandemic hit and the world has changed quite a lot.

"The document is with you seeking any additions you want to make.

"And it's whether you'd consider commending it to full council to be a part of the constitution from May onwards," she added.

"I've suggested it's reviewed in a year's time as the world does move on quickly."

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain said: "It's a welcome thing, even though it should have been in protocol in the past.

"It isn't always the case that members are informed of issues, and I've had experience of a major change or development happening and I'm the last to know.

"A constituent might ask: 'Do you know what's going on here?' and these are the things, whether it's the opening or closure of a facility or a development of some sort, about which ward members should be informed.

"Unless it's in the constitution it doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes you get information and sometimes you don't."

Councillor Abbas Hussain, who chairs the committee, agreed, saying: "Deputy chief executive Laura Church has done a lot of work around this, but it never came forward because of Covid.

"It's something good for all councillors and some departments have begun implementing it, which I could see around the pandemic."

The committee agreed to commend the ward member protocol to full council and review it 12 months later.