In what might be described as rather ironic timing, the move came just a day after East Devon District Council voted through proposals to dramatically restrict public speaking at planning committee meetings.
Devon County Council’s public speaking rules will be relaxed to allow members of the public to ask and questions and make statements at joint budget scrutiny committee meetings and full council meetings.
Instead of having to register almost a week in advance, new rules mean that they will now need to register 24 hours ahead.
The new rules, although welcome, have not gone as far as I proposed at procedures committee – see report here – http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/decision_making/cma/cma_report.htm?cmadoc=report_cs1423.html
However, they are a very positive step in the right direction and go some way to righting the wrong at the February budget meeting where a group of young people were refused permission to address the council over youth service cuts.
Now more than ever, it is important for councillors to directly hear the views of members of the public, especially those who are affected by the massive budget cuts. Next year, £50m must be cut in Devon alone. The year after the council is instructed to slash a further £24m.
By 2017 it is expected that councils will have lost around 40 per cent of their budgets, thanks to government austerity measures. The service cuts have had, and will have a serious impact on many people’s lives.
Here is yesterday’s full council webcast, where I address councillors on the subject – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/118359
Here is the link to my speech about the importance of relaxing public speaking in April, at full council – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/118257
Photograph: Councillors settling down for yesterday’s full council meeting.