To consider the above report
Councillor Shelim introduced the report. He explained that during 2018 the council had undertaken a full review of the constitution. This involved a cross-party working group presenting recommendations to full Council. Following a wide variety of recommendations, changes were agreed at the full Council meeting in June 2018, for implementation in May 2019.
One of the agreed changes was to remove the opportunity for a member of the public to ask a supplementary question under the item ‘Public Questions. Following a public question on the proposed change at the full Council meeting in April 2019, the then Lead Member for HR, Legal and IT (former Councillor Lisa Targowska) suggested that the decision be reviewed and a report be brought to full Council on 25 June 2019. Subsequent to that announcement, on 28 May 2019, the council received an e-petition on the subject containing 397 signatories, requesting that the council ‘rescind their decision to ban supplementary public questions at council meetings. The recommendation in the report was therefore to reinstate the right for members of the public to ask supplementary questions.
Councillor Werner commented that he welcomed the well-thought through reversal of the previous decision by the Conservative council to stop supplementary questions. He questioned why the change was also not being also proposed for Member questions.
Councillor Jones stated that she supported the recommendation but would also like to see the reversal of the decisions to remove Member supplementary questions. There was often a need for clarification regarding an answer; removing them hindered transparency.
Councillor Dudley explained that the original reason to remove supplementary questions was to ensure Members were able to answer questions in full; there had been a number of occasions when members of the public were sent written responses to their supplementary question as the Member did not have the information to hand at the meeting to be able to respond in full. He was happy for the reinstatement to apply to both members of the public and Councillors.
Councillor Hill commented that he supported the proposals; Lead Members should be on top of their game and able to answer supplementary questions.
Councillor W. Da Costa welcomed both changes. He thanked Andrew Hill who had raised the issue in the first place and helped the public understand the ramifications.
Councillor Shelim agreed to amend the recommendations to include the reinstatement of supplementary questions for Councillors as well as members of the public. However, he highlighted that Councillors did not have to wait until a full Council meeting to ask a Lead Member a question.
It was confirmed that when supplementary questions were responded to in writing, the response was added as an addendum to the minutes of the meeting shown on the council website.
It was proposed by Councillor Shelim, seconded by Councillor Dudley and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Full Council notes the report and:
i) Agrees to reinstate the opportunity for members of the public to ask supplementary questions under the item ‘Public Questions’.
ii) Agrees to reinstate the opportunity for Councillors to ask supplementary questions under the item ‘Member Questions’
iii) Delegates authority to the Monitoring Officer to amend the constitution as necessary.