Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions
Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
There were apologies from Councillor Kerin.
Items of Urgent Business
There were no items of urgent business.
Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
The briefing note provided an update to Members’ recommendations recorded from the last Constitution Working Group meeting on 31 October 2017. This note gave an outline on what actions would be taken on the following:
· The timeframe for repeat questions;
· Deadline for question submissions;
· Accessibility of the Council’s website;
· Providing a public leaflet to outline rules and procedures in Council meetings;
· Widening public participation through social media;
· Assigning seats at Full Council meetings;
· Questions at Planning Committee; and
· Three minutes to speak on any topic at the beginning of a Full Council meeting.
Most of the action points would proceed ahead and some would require more procedural development from Officers.
The Vice-Chair noticed that the deadline for the submission of questions would remain the same and felt it would go against what the group was trying to achieve. He asked how the public would be made aware of the deadline. The Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) replied that the deadlines in place allowed officers to liaise with residents over questions to ensure as many were accepted as possible; likewise it allowed all questions to be publically accessible alongside all other committee documentation. He went on to say that the Communications Team could improve access to deadlines for residents through the use of social media. The Chair reminded the group that not all people had access to the internet or even knew how to use a computer. Some were not aware of how the Council ran either. The public needed access via community forums and libraries as well.
Councillor Fish pointed out that some of the criteria for urgent questions were subjective and leaving it as Mayor’s discretion should be the final decision. This was already known and did not need to be explained in the Constitution.
Councillor Spillman questioned why public questions had to be printed in the agenda. Using the Mayor’s discretion for urgent questions could cause conflict with residents so a longer deadline would be a better solution. The Monitoring Officer (MO) said that the questions were printed in the agenda to enable transparency so the public and press had knowledge of them and could see what could potentially be a significant question. Extending the deadline would result in less time to speak with the questioner for clarity of their question and would not ensure quality of the answer.
Councillor Ojetola suggested informing the public of the reports due at Council to enable them to ask questions based around the reports. The MO answered that there was the Forward Plan for Council which did not require the same 28 days’ notice as Cabinet’s Forward Plan required. The challenge was that this Forward Plan was not as obvious as it could be on the current website.
The DMO referred back to the Chair’s earlier point in regards to accessibility for the public and said the Democratic Services Team were creating video presentations to help the public understand the Council better in terms of asking questions in meetings.
Councillor Spillman mentioned ... view the full minutes text for item 13.