Could plans to shorten council meetings stifle debate?

Posted On 01 Mar 2010 at 7:25 pm

Brighton and Hove City Council meetings could come with a strict time limit in future under plans to make them more “efficient, streamlined and productive”.

Under new plans, meetings would be automatically stopped after four hours, and councillors would be limited to just three minutes when they want to contribute to a debate.

And a local version of Prime Minister’s question time where  opposition councillors get the chance to grill cabinet members could also be in the pipeline – as well as annual State of the City debates.

Councillor Brian Oxley, chairman of the Governance Committee said:  “These proposals are part of our continuing drive to modernise the way we do business; making council meetings more efficient and focusing on the real points of interest which make a difference to our residents’ lives.”

While the guidelines would please most people who have sat through seemingly interminable council meetings – such as December’s seven hour meeting to debate the city’s masterplan – the plans have not met with universal approval.

Green councillor Jason Kitcat, a frequent speaker at meetings, slammed the proposals as “undemocratic”, saying it was  a “minority Tory administration trying to further shut down debate”.

The proposals will be submitted to the Governance Committee on 9 March 2010, except the State of the City debates which will be considered later this year.

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