Can you spare a few moments to let me know if you were among the many Conservative councillors who voted “en bloc” to deny the many young people, who attended the DCC meeting yesterday, the chance to address Council? I understand that Cllr Hughes ( chair ) declined to allow the suspension of standing orders to allow this group to speak to chamber despite requests from non-Conservative members.
I however was not present to see first-hand what occurred and thus I would welcome your version of events in the interests of balance, as the current flurry of reports regarding this meeting appear to show DCC in a very poor light with regards to democratic representation of our young people. Whilst we all accept the need for DCC to review spending in the face of reduced Coalition central government funding , this spending review should not affect the right of the public to address their elected representatives. I am sure you will agree.
This was the situation at the meeting on Thursday as recorded by the head of democratic services.
a) the Chairman did not ‘decline to allow the suspension of standing orders’ .. on the contrary he, quite properly, asked/required the Council to vote on that suggestion .. but upon voting a majority of members did not agree with that suggestion .. the vote was 32 to 23 against suspending standing orders and allowing anyone to speak.
b) a number of approaches had been received .. direct from a number of people .. including the organiser of the young peoples’ demonstration .. and a County Councillor .. in the week before the Council meeting .. all of whom were properly advised
c) whilst the Council’s public participation rules do indeed allow members of the public to speak at certain meetings for up to 3 minutes .. (relating, for instance, to planning applications or traffic orders) or to submit written questions to meetings of the Council or Cabinet … there is no general right for anyone to attend and speak at meetings of the Cabinet or Council as part of a debate on any particular item .. and that it followed that it would not be possible for the young people to address yesterdays Council meeting.
d) they were also advised that there was a mechanism for asking questions .. submitting petitions etc. and that the deadline for questions was 12noon on Friday 14 February ..
e) they were also reminded that the current consultation exercise on the future of the youth service did not conclude until 27 April 2014 … so it was still possible for them to make their views known to the Council via that process (website is: http://new.devon.gov.uk/youthreview/the-proposed-model/)
f) it was also made clear – as has been publicly stated at meetings of the Council’s Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees – that the detail of service specific budget proposals in the proposed budget might be subject to change dependent on the final outcome of ongoing service reviews and consultations in key service areas.
g) the point was also made – at least to the Councillor who was in touch with the young people – that were the young people to be allowed to speak .. other groups might similarly want to make representations to the Council (with the obvious other side of the coin being that those who played by the rules or who were not at the council meeting could be disadvantaged)
h) notwithstanding the above … no questions were submitted – by any members of the public – prior to the deadline for putting questions to Members.
i) Councillor Will Mumford, who has responsibility for the Devon Youth Service, met with young people before the Council meeting yesterday to hear what they had to say and to receive a petition from them.
j) again and notwithstanding the above, a Councillor suggested that the rules be suspended to allow the group to speak .. and as indicated above, that was then – correctly – moved and voted upon at the meeting.
As you may be aware, there were also several members of the public in attendance who were interested in the badger debate – if we had suspended standing orders to allow the young people to speak, we would similarly be expected to allow the badger lobby to speak…..and what would happen with future meetings of the council? – every time a contentious item arose, with members of the public in attendance, there would be a presumption that standing orders could be suspended in order that the public could be allowed to speak on any item!
On this matter see points c) and d), if the public were allowed to speak on every item put before the council, the business procedure of the council would be impossible to administer.
You may wish to put this on facebook to enable the facts to be portrayed