It is not often that we, as the leaders of the Conservative and Labour Groups on B&NES Council respectively, come together to write a joint letter.
However, last week’s Council meeting saw such a cynical display of party-politicking from the Liberal Democrats we felt we must write setting the record straight for residents.
We refer to the misleading claims the Lib Dems have made through the press regarding public speaking at Council meetings.
Last week a number of changes to the Council’s constitution were put forward by an all-party working group – a group which included the Liberal Democrats.
One of the things this cross-party group looked at was how to strike the right balance between the need to have a full debate and conclude business at Council meetings, whilst also giving over enough time to public speakers and petitions.
The working group looked at practice in various councils across the country and concluded that allocating an hour to public speakers, with the option to extend the time at the discretion of the Chair, was a reasonable approach that struck the right balance.
This was something the Liberal Democrats were happy to support at that time – in fact, the idea of allocating one-hour for public speakers came from a Lib Dem Councillor on the working group.
Then, rather bizarrely, the Lib Dems decided to issue a statement before the Council Meeting denouncing their own proposal as ‘anti-democratic’.
This is despite the fact a number of Lib Dem-run councils put far greater restrictions on public speakers – Cheltenham and Sutton Councils allow only 30 minutes, whilst South Somerset Council gives just 15 minutes for public speakers and questions.
It is disappointing that the Lib Dems chose to take this approach rather than engaging constructively with the other parties. However, the most important message to get across is that, contrary to the Lib Dems’ claims, there remains ample opportunity for residents to attend council meetings to raise local issues and give their views, and we would encourage people to do so.
Cllr Tim Warren
(Leader, B&NES Conservative Group)
Cllr Robin Moss
(Leader, B&NES Labour Group)