• Devon County Council committee to discuss public speaking rights

    22nd April 2014 | News | Claire
  • I asked for the agenda item to be debated at procedures committee, of which I am a member, following the refusal by the conservative group, to allow youth centre campaigners to address the full council for three minutes at the February budget meeting.

    I had asked that a representative of the group of about 30 young people, which included teenagers from across the county, to be allowed to address the council, which was about to make an important decision about the funding for youth services.

    But after a brief exchange in which the answer was no, there was a vote on whether to suspend standing orders to allow the campaigners to speak. The conservative group, which has a large majority then voted down this proposal.

    Since then we have heard some conservative members argue that if the young campaigners were allowed to speak, so would the badger cull campaigners.  A rather weak argument in my view as it would have resulted in six minutes taken up with public speaking.

    There was another incident just after the budget meeting, where a children’s home worker was denied a voice at the people’s overview and scrutiny committee, at which public speaking is decided on the chairman’s discretion.  Funding was set to be lost for the children’s home that employed her and it was almost unbelievable, in my view, that she was not allowed to address the committee.

    It is a shame that these incidents have taken place because Devon County Council does have a generally good track record for being open and its live webcasting facility is really excellent, allowing residents to tune into meetings live, without needing to leave their homes or desks.

    So, Thursday’s procedures committee, which is open to the public but not webcast unfortunately, starts at 2.15pm and will be held in the committee suite.  To take a look at the current rules in the report submitted, click on this link – http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/decision_making/cma/cma_document.htm?cmadoc=agenda_prc_20140424.html