The council (all 45 borough councillors) meet regularly to determine overall policy and the supporting spending plans. The meetings usually take place in the council chamber at the town hall, Ripley, Derbyshire at 7pm and are open to the press and public, unless confidential or exempt items are being considered.
At the start of meetings of the full council, the mayor will invite members of the public to address the council on any subject to do with the borough council, for a maximum of three minutes. A total of 20 minutes is set aside for public speaking. A matter may be rejected if it relates to a subject raised by a member of the public in the previous six months.
The council recognises the value of public participation at council meetings and that speaking to the public can be daunting but can provide varied and fascinating perspective that enriches meetings.
In Spring 2012, following a huge increase in public attendance and following feedback from the public, the council reviewed the way the public participates in its future meetings.
The increase in numbers was largely attributed to debates about the challenges the council was presented with to find locations for future housing during that time. This led to an unprecedented number of the public wishing to air their views at Council meetings. In response to this increased demand, the council more than doubled the time allocated to public speaking at one of its meetings in January 2012.
Given the large numbers of people sometimes attending council meetings, it may be necessary to have a police presence to manage access to the meeting - members of the public wishing to attend the meeting to ask a question should not be intimidated or put off from attending in these circumstances. Following the large attendances, the council then issued the following guidance in response to frequently asked questions about public speaking.
Anyone who wishes to speak at Council will need to notify Alison Steeples on 01773 841636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance with your name and address and the subject matter you wish to speak about.
Public speaking is held before the formal agenda begins and traditionally allows twenty minutes for the public regardless of how many people attend. However, at one meeting in January 2012, there were so many requests to speak that well over an hour of the meeting was set aside just for public speaking. Whilst this was allowed it contributed to the meeting being conducted until very late into the evening, which can have a detrimental impact on the quality of debate on important issues which affect the public. It remains at the discretion of the Mayor, who chairs Council meetings, how much time is given to public speaking but the allocated time may only be extended in exceptional circumstances.
At the start of ordinary meetings of the Full Council, the Mayor will invite members of the public to address the Council on any subject on the Agenda for that meeting to do with the Borough Council, for a maximum of three minutes.
A matter may be rejected or you may be asked to stop your address if it relates to the same subject raised by a member of the public in the previous six months. You will be informed if this is the case after you have submitted your question in advance of the meeting. This rule allows the Council to encourage a mixture of views from different people.
To make the best use of your time, please be brief and to the point. You may find it helpful to rehearse what you have to say to ensure that everything is included. You will not be allowed to over-run your time.
The aim of these rules is to make sure everyone has a fair say and that Council hears different opinions on a variety of subjects. Whilst the council appreciates the strength of feeling of members of the public who are motivated to speak it also needs to keep meetings to time and ensure that items in the remainder of the meeting can be debated in full.
The increase in attendance also led to common questions being raised about the way agenda items are discussed in exclusion of the public. Part of the Local Government Act allows councils to conduct certain items with exclusion of the public and media on the grounds that maintaining exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing that information. This Act is enforced in councils throughout the UK on a weekly basis.
However, following feedback from the public the Council publishes on the public part of the agenda, the reasons why the officers are recommending why the press and public should be excluded from that particular item.
Contact the team directly on 01773 841636 or email email@example.com