Public Speaking at Meetings
Explanatory notes for members of the press and public on attending and speaking at meetings
Which meetings are open to the public?
Every meeting of the Council and its Committees is open to the press and public.
However, a meeting may move into private session if "exempt" information would be disclosed. "Exempt information is defined in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985. Examples of "exempt" information include information relating to:-
- a particular recipient of a service provided by the Council;
- the financial or business affairs of a particular person other than the Council;
- the amount of expenditure proposed to be incurred by the Council under any particular contract.
The Act also sets out arrangements for dealing with "confidential" information. However, items of business containing "confidential" information are extremely rare.
For the convenience of the public, items of business containing "exempt" information are usually considered last at the meeting. Any member of the public and press still present will be asked to leave before the meeting moves into private session.
Public Speaking and Question Time
The Council provides opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions at every Council and Committee (with the exception of the Annual Council, Licensing Sub-Committee, Appeals, Standards Sub-Committee and Scrutiny Committee when considering a call-in). Accordingly "Public Speaking and Question Time" appears as an early item of business on relevant agenda.
If you are unable to attend the meeting, your question/statement will be circulated to the Committee but will not be read out.
What Do I Do?
- Identify the appropriate Committee as you must address the correct meeting.
- Questions must include the name and address of the questioner and contact details.
Scope of Questions and Statements
Questions and Statements must relate to a matter within the remit of the Council or in relation to committees with an agenda item. More than one question may be asked by an individual questioner subject to the time limit of 3 mintues, but where a number of questions or statements are received expressing a similar view on one agenda item it is expected that a representative will be nominated to voice those views.
What are the Rules for Speaking?
The rules for speakers are:-
- The Chairman will invite you to stand/sit in location where you can be clearly heard.
- Speakers will be taken in the order in which their written notices were received per to the relevant item on the agenda (with the exception of Council where some speakers may be taken at the "Public Speaking and Question Time" item).
- You can speak for a maximum of 3 minutes per meeting.
- Supplementary questions will be allowed for a maximum of 2 minutes, which will be responded to verbally by the Member of the Council replying to the written question.
- You must not interrupt speakers or speak during the Committee's debate.
Who Will Respond?
- If you ask a question, the Chairman will respond or ask another Member to respond verbally.
- If you make a statement, the Chairman may ask an Officer to comment on what you have said.
Are There any Time Limits at the Meeting?
- The total time allowed for statements, questions and responses will not usually exceed 30 minutes. Questions not answered within the time allowed will be the subject of a written answer sent within 5 working days of the meeting.
- Each speaker can speak for a maximum of 3 minutes per meeting.
Speeches/questions must be delivered in writing or by fax or electronic mail to the Democratic Services Manager at Mercury House, Station Road so that he receives them by no later than 9.30 am on the day of the meeting; please contact us for arrangements for meetings which do not start at 6.30 pm. If you are seeking a detailed answer, please endeavour to give more notice of your question prior to the meeting.
- No questions/statements can be accepted which relate to employee matters properly falling within the province of the Joint Consultative Committee or situations where there is a statutory procedure in place for public consultation.
- Questions will be rejected if it is not a Council matter, is defamatory, frivolous or offensive in the opinion of the Monitoring Officer.
- Names an individual Member or Officer and in the opinion of the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Chairman of the meeting constitutes a personal attack on the individual concerned.
"Exempt" and "Confidential" Information
Whilst questions maybe asked on matters dealt with in private session no "exempt" or "confidential" information (as defined in the Local Government (Access to information) Act 1985) can be disclosed when responding to such questions
In addition to attending the public session of meetings, you are also entitled to:-
- inspect the agenda and reports taken in public session. These are usually available five clear days before the meeting for a period of six years from the meeting;
- inspect, as soon as reasonably practicable, after the meeting, a public written summary of any proceedings held in private. This shall be available for a period of six years from the meeting;
- inspect any papers listed as "background documents" at the bottom of a report open for public inspection. These are usually available five clear days before the meeting for a period of four years from the meeting;
- be supplied with photocopies of the above documents. (A small fee may be charged to cover administration costs);
- inspect lists of names and addresses of District Councillors and their electoral wards, memberships of Committees, powers delegated to officers and the schedule of meeting
Further information can be found within the Council's Constitution.
You may wish to contact your District Councillor(s) about your concerns. If you do, your right to speak at meetings is not affected.