Ex-member calls police authority’s public meetings ‘charade’

Moi Ali, who claims she was silenced by the SPA, has accused the board of rehearsing its meetings. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Moi Ali, who claims she was silenced by the SPA, has accused the board of rehearsing its meetings. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A former member of the Scottish Police Authority board has described the organisation’s public meetings as appearing “rehearsed” in advance.

Moi Ali quit the SPA amid claims she had been silenced after speaking out against a decision to hold committee meetings behind closed doors.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s audit committee will today hear evidence from the SPA’s chairman and chief executive as part of Holyrood’s scrutiny of the organisation.

The secrecy row began late last year when the SPA – responsible for the £1 billion Police Scotland budget – voted to hold the majority of its meetings in private.

In an e-mail to MSPs ahead of today’s meeting, Ms Ali called the SPA’s public meetings “a charade”, saying: “It is hard to understand how the axing of public committee meetings and the late publication of papers is driven by a desire to increase transparency.

“A genuine commitment to greater transparency would see the SPA creating more opportunities for the public to engage, not fewer. It could start by dispensing with pre-meetings, which can create the impression that the public board meeting is rehearsed.”

Ms Ali claimed the SPA began holding meetings in private last year, even before it had formalised the decision at its public meeting.

And she claimed chairman Andrew Flanagan wanted the board to effectively take decisions in advance of public meetings.

She said: “It is self-evident that collective responsibility can only happen after a decision has been taken. In expecting it before that point, Andrew Flanagan must have believed that the board had in fact already taken the decision before the board meeting had even taken place.

“If that is so, then ‘public’ decision-making can only be a charade, with the full discussion and establishing of positions occurring in private.”

A spokeswoman for the SPA said: “The SPA is seeking to balance its ability to develop the right relationships and flows of information needed for informed scrutiny, with the openness and transparency which we agree is critical for a public service like policing.

“The SPA is holding more public board meetings in 2017 than it did in 2016 – an average of one every six weeks. We are meeting regularly with staff associations and unions.

“At its last public meeting, board members debated different perspectives on striking the right balance between public and private scrutiny. So there is a legitimate debate around striking that balance and the board has agreed to keep it under review.”