If the recommendation below is rubber-stamped next Wednesday it will mean that all questions not related specifically to agendas will have to be submitted in writing two clear working days in advance.

Currently, there is no requirement for any question to EDDC committees to be in writing, nor is the subject of the question restricted.

See the full cabinet recommendations on page 138 of the agenda papers, which all tie in with what was agreed at the standards committee meeting on 9 October, except this paragraph:

“c) Where the public wish to raise a question on an issue which is not included as an agenda item for the meeting, this to be submitted in writing to Democratic Services in advance (two clear working days before the meeting) to enable a considered response to be given in writing at the meeting if time permits. The speaker who has submitted the question two clear days in advance to be able to ask a supplementary question relevant to the original question. Two days’ notice is not required if the question being put to the Committee relates to a subject already included as an agenda item.”

Compare this paragraph with the paragraph below that was actually AGREED at standards committee on 9 November – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/standards_committee_mins_091013_with_appended_social_medial_use_policy.pdf  – see page 4 for the relevant minute.

“c) Where possible, questions to be submitted in writing to Democratic Services in advance (two clear working days before the meeting) to enable a considered response to be given in writing at the meeting if time permits. The speaker who submitted the question to be able to ask a supplementary question”

The “where possible” clause here meant that this was not a hard and fast rule and was simply a preference.

This new rule of course would conveniently avoid any embarrassing questions that committee chairmen would rather not answer. 

An explanatory note on the change on page 140 states: 
“Note: Officers have made a more detailed recommendation at c) to differentiate between questions relevant to the agenda and those which do not relate to agenda items. The reason is to allow Members preparation time – this will be of greater benefit to the public as responses given will be well considered and researched.”

How is it that clear recommendations agreed by a committee can be overturned and subtly changed, but with significant detrimental implications for democracy at EDDC? 

Who pushed for these changes?

Ironically, the cabinet report on public speaking, which starts on page 137, begins with the following sentence: “At the Annual Council meeting on 22 May 2013, Members agreed for the Standards Committee to consider public speaking issues further and make recommendations to Council. There was no suggestion that public speaking would be stopped but rather reviewed with the potential for increasing the contributions and improving the current arrangements.

I hope that many members of the public will attend next week’s cabinet meeting and object to the completely unreasonable and unjustified speaking restrictions, which are contrary to the recommendations agreed by the standards committee.

Cabinet starts at 5.30pm on Wednesday 27 November.  Here’s the link to the agenda papers – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/cabinet_combined_agenda_271113_-_public_version.pdf 

The paper does not include speaking arrangements for the development management committee, which will debate its own way forward next month.