There are currently NO public speaking rights at the four scrutiny committee meetings, which has led to bad feeling and heckling among members of the public attending health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meetings, at least.

The health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting has had to examine some high profile and controversial decisions, in particular proposals to shut hospital beds (including at Ottery St Mary), which has caused much anxiety and anger in communities across Eastern and Northern Devon.

I have always felt it was wrong that the NHS should have a lengthy time slot to put across its case, yet members of the public are not permitted to address the committee. They can send emails of course, but it is not guaranteed that they will be given the proper respect and consideration that they deserve.

Last summer I raised the issue with Devon County Council Leader, John Hart, who was sympathetic to the idea and referred the matter to the scrutiny chairs meeting.

I addressed the scrutiny chairs in December and explained the reason behind my proposal. Happily they also backed it unanimously.

Councillors on the procedures committee, including leader, John Hart listened carefully when I addressed the committee, last Tuesday (9 February) and after a few clarifications, voted through unanimously to recommend the changes to full council on Thursday.

I am absolutely delighted that the committee voted through the changes, which if approved by full council, will better balance the rights of the public with the rights of the health service, to address the committee.

The proposals are long overdue in my view. It is important to treat members of the public with respect – and the new system (if approved on Thursday) will be much fairer.

A new policy has now been drawn up by officers, which proposes that 15 minutes be set aside at the start of each scrutiny meeting for public speaking.

For more detail, see this link – http://www.devon.gov.uk/…/decision_maki…/cma/cma_report.htm…

The new system, if approved by full council, could well be implemented immediately.