It cannot be true – can it?

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Whilst lazing on our sunbeds – (sorry to all our readers over there in Blustury Blighty because we hear you are having atrocious silly season weather) – but we noticed on the web a little missive from the new ‘Chair’ of Godalming Town Council.

‘Abolition of town councillors robes and restoration of open public speaking at town council sessions.’

We have already posted on the abolition of the mayoral robesThe new brooms getting to grips with Godalming.

However, a subsequent sentence in a message to residents from GTC’s Chair Paul Follows took us by surprise…

‘restoration of open public speaking at town council sessions.’

RESTORATION OF PUBLIC SPEAKING! Really? Are we to gather from that statement that the previous administrators of Godalming Town Council didn’t allow their residents the democratic right to actually speak at town council meetings?  If not, why not? Even in the smallest villages in the borough, the public is given an opportunity to speak, ask questions, make comments, to their elected representatives. Some even call councillors to account. So what in the name of open and transparent government has been going on in Godalming for? years?

Oh well – enough of Waverley matters and back to the beach bar.

3 thoughts on “It cannot be true – can it?

  1. I don’t think that is true. The word “restoration” carries implications of a former glorious age in which public speaking was freely permitted by Godalming Town Council and with it the suggestion that someone (who?) removed that right. The law does not permit members of the public to speak at Council meetings. They are meetings held in public, not public meetings. However, it has long been accepted good practice to encourage a period of public speaking close to the start of a meeting. And yes, town and parish councils up and down the country encourage this practice (and sadly often have to pass over that item because there is no such public contribution). Godalming Town Council was at the vanguard of the introduction of this practice and probably introduced it, under a Liberal Democrat administration, sometime in the 1990’s. At that time, being one of the first they wrote a set of “rules” for public speaking that I suspect have remained unchanged for more than 20 years – meaning that no Conservative administration thought it necessary to change them. Now, in comparison with other parish councils, those rules look unreasonably restrictive in that they ask a member of the public to give advance notice (48 hours) that they wish to speak rather than just rock up to the meeting and have their say on the day. I have assumed that Cllr Follows means that Godalming Town Council will adopt a more open practice (for the first time) rather than restore a former practice.

    • Thank you for the explanation which is much appreciated. WW wonders why on earth would any grass roots council, which deals with the everday and mostly uncontroversial issues of their area, would want to have 48 hours notice of any questions from the public ho put them there?

      This completely removes any element of surprise, or a subsequent straight uncontrived answer or response.

      But then perhaps that is what was intended at past Godalming Town Councils – along with its decision not to consider planning applications affecting its residents?

      As you say, in comparison with other parish and town councils those past rules appear unduly restrictive, so full marks to Cllr Follows and his colleagues for adopting a more open practice. Lets hope he can bring along some of the same to Waverley Borough Council?

  2. Hi – just to say that is exactly what I meant 🙂

    The idea that you have to give notice, in writing etc etc…it’s all just barriers to entry for the residents that elected us. Trying to strip these back everywhere we find them.

    Some of those things are symbolic barriers (such as robes) , some of them are procedural like this.

    And I don’t want to do this here. My governance review panel at Waverley kicks off in September which is reviewing the constitution in full for this very reason. If I only get 4 yrs with any power to do anything I am intent on leaving it a more modern, accessible council than I found it.

    Any ideas or suggestions from anyone on here also more than welcome!

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