EDDC members fear loss of public speaking

PUBLISHED: 16:27 31 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:27 31 May 2013

Archant

Fears about changes to the rules on public speaking at East Devon District Council (EDDC) meetings had representatives up in arms.

Members said altering the authority’s constitution risked being ‘profoundly undemocratic’ if they limited residents’ ability to have their say.

The rules were under discussion at the council’s annual meeting at Knowle, where it was said that all procedures should be subject to a review.

Councillor Trevor Cope said: “We are elected by the people – I’m shocked to even consider reviewing letting the public speak.

“Do they want to shut the public out? That’s not why we are here.”

The councillors were discussing the agenda item at last Wednesday’s EDDC annual meeting after some members asked that the rules be reviewed.

Suggestions included shortening the period during which a question may be asked to allow more people the chance to speak, and whether speaking on matters other than planning applications could be included at Development Management Committee.

Councillor Ben Ingham said: “In 2008 this council insisted the public be involved, and any move away from that would be to fly in the face of the public.”

But council leader Paul Diviani said it was merely a simplification of the rules after individuals had been using their three-minute time limit incorrectly.

He said: “The whole reason is to review all procedures from time to time.

“We are not opposed to public speaking – we had two hours of public speaking on the Tesco application.”

Chief executive Mark Williams added: “I would not expect there to be any restrictions.”

Individuals can speak for three minutes each during the 15-minute public question time at the start of most meetings, but the rules vary for some committees and are laid out in the EDDC constitution.

The matters were being discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting.

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