Changes to public question time spark debate at Elstree and Borehamwood Residents' Association

Councillors say changes to public questions at town council meetings would make meetings more fair, despite accusations the new plans would be a check on democracy.

The new recommendations would mean each member of the public  wishing to speak at an Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council meeting would be able to ask one question on a topic the council is concerned with, and a follow up question.

The first question would be allocated three minutes and the second two. Public questions would still last 15 minutes. Questions would be put in writing before the meeting.

Speaking at last night’s meeting of the Elstree and Borehamwood Residents Association, committee member Lawrence Stack accused Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council of curtailing democracy.

He said: “This new system means members of the public would be made to put up and shut up unless asked to speak by the chairman.

“The council says it wants to involve us in decision making, but this means we would only have a very short time to ask questions, however relevant, and have to submit anything we want to know in writing two weeks before.

“I attend every single council meeting and, under the new rules, if something occurs to me while the councillors are speaking, I would have to wait until the next meeting for an answer.”

However Councillor Richard Butler said the new policy was designed to make sure town councilmeetings were kept to a decent length.

Cllr Simon Rubner suggested the new rules would ensure everyone who wanted to have a question answered would have the chance to speak.

He said: “Sometimes Lawrence Stack and other people who come to the meetings use the entire 15 minutes giving statements rather than asking genuine questions.”

He added submitting written answers meant councillors would have the time to come up with decent and well thought out answers to questions.

Cllr Ernie Butler said: “When we are in the middle of debating something and members of the public have a question, we don’t always have the answers to hand, this would give us a chance to answer it without being there all night.”

Comments (1)

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10:41am Fri 10 Jan 14

david Burcombe says...

It makes sense to have written questions but not statements from members of the public. I fully understand that the need to get through business in a reasonable time A good chairman is essential to keep things rolling on in a sensible and constructive manner I do not think any member of the council wants things to go on too long with a decision being made. I feel sympathy with some councils that can go on into the small hours of the morning before the business is concluded. In Parliament we know that sittings do often go on through out the night and early morning but they get well paid for being MPs and are fully aware of what this entails as a representative of their constituents
It makes sense to have written questions but not statements from members of the public. I fully understand that the need to get through business in a reasonable time A good chairman is essential to keep things rolling on in a sensible and constructive manner I do not think any member of the council wants things to go on too long with a decision being made. I feel sympathy with some councils that can go on into the small hours of the morning before the business is concluded. In Parliament we know that sittings do often go on through out the night and early morning but they get well paid for being MPs and are fully aware of what this entails as a representative of their constituents david Burcombe

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