'No debates' in Newport council meetings - claim

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

FULL council meetings in Newport are a rubber stamping exercise when it should be an open debate, a top opposition councillor has claimed.

The Conservative’s David Fouweather says nobody listens to the current written questions and answers set-up, and that the system makes cabinet members unaccountable to councillors.

Labour council leader Bob Bright said the system was not intended to stifle debate.

The Tory group is likely to table a motion at the next full council meeting on April 29 calling for a return to the open questioning of executive members under the pre-2012 system.

Under previous arrangements at Newport full council meetings elected members were able to ask questions of the leader and the cabinet without warning.

But following changes put in place by the Labour administration after the May 2012 election, questions had to be submitted in writing days in advance.

The opposition – who walked out over the issue at one meeting – have never been happy with the process and rarely engage with it.

Cllr Fouweather said: “The current system makes the cabinet members unaccountable to council and restricts debate.

“Full council is just a rubber stamping exercise now when it should be a good open debate.”

He said that although supplementary questions can be asked, they can only clarify the answer given and can’t probe further.

When everyone is reading prepared answers and questions “nobody really listens”.

Cllr Debbie Davies, Labour cabinet member for skills, said the opposition Tories choose not to take the opportunity to submit questions to the leader, and said the supplementary can be used to probe further.

Labour Council leader Bob Bright said: “The written question process was not intended to stifle debate but to prove a more structured focus for the questions and answers. The advance notice allows for questions to be properly researched and meaningful information to be provided at the meeting.

“Submitting questions in advance allows constructive and more detailed responses to be provided.”

Cllr Bright said research found that a substantial majority of councils in Wales were operating a process whereby questions could only be posed at council meetings by way of a written question submitted in advance.

The new process of allowing written questions at any time, rather than just waiting for the next council meeting, also gives greater opportunity to raise matters.

“Our research shows we are only one of two councils in Wales offering a formal system of questions to cabinet members at any time,” he said.

Comments (5)

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10:08am Sat 5 Apr 14

Mervyn James says...

Meetings should be more in the public domain, putting more online for us to peruse is a step forward.
Meetings should be more in the public domain, putting more online for us to peruse is a step forward. Mervyn James
  • Score: 7

1:47pm Sat 5 Apr 14

Lord coed melyn says...

I agree you must have an instant response to get views on a subject.
And if a question cannot be answered? (THEN SAY SO). And find out about problem raised by gaining local input from the people you represent.
First so you are aware. And not give a previously prepared answer and hope it fits all.
YOU SEEM TO BE RUNNING A DICTATORSHIP.
Be careful people turn on councillors like that sometimes it good to listen.
ITS DEMOCRACY AT WORK .
I agree you must have an instant response to get views on a subject. And if a question cannot be answered? (THEN SAY SO). And find out about problem raised by gaining local input from the people you represent. First so you are aware. And not give a previously prepared answer and hope it fits all. YOU SEEM TO BE RUNNING A DICTATORSHIP. Be careful people turn on councillors like that sometimes it good to listen. ITS DEMOCRACY AT WORK . Lord coed melyn
  • Score: 3

8:41pm Sat 5 Apr 14

Christian Grail says...

Fouweather's a useless idiot, he's been complaining since they lost the last election. All he did then was suck up to Matthew Evans, the idiot who crippled Newport! What he seems to forget was that the council meetings were a rubber stamping exercise even more so then, especially when closing down all the Newport shops when there was no need to after the Shopping centre project was cancelled, bypassed Newport completely so visitors to the golf wouldn't see the town centre, and ordering the demolition of the chartist mural
Fouweather's a useless idiot, he's been complaining since they lost the last election. All he did then was suck up to Matthew Evans, the idiot who crippled Newport! What he seems to forget was that the council meetings were a rubber stamping exercise even more so then, especially when closing down all the Newport shops when there was no need to after the Shopping centre project was cancelled, bypassed Newport completely so visitors to the golf wouldn't see the town centre, and ordering the demolition of the chartist mural Christian Grail
  • Score: -5

10:01pm Sat 5 Apr 14

Bobevans says...

Council meeting should be held in the evening and not in the idle of the afternoon. The councillors consist largely of pensioners and public sector workers as they are the only ones that can attend at those times.

The politicians keep saying the police should represent the racial profile of the area they serve so should similar also apply to councillors. WE should have a mix by gender and age and the big obstacle is the 2pm meeting times. Probably arranged to keep them in their cosy positions

We have far too much dead wood on Newport Council
Council meeting should be held in the evening and not in the idle of the afternoon. The councillors consist largely of pensioners and public sector workers as they are the only ones that can attend at those times. The politicians keep saying the police should represent the racial profile of the area they serve so should similar also apply to councillors. WE should have a mix by gender and age and the big obstacle is the 2pm meeting times. Probably arranged to keep them in their cosy positions We have far too much dead wood on Newport Council Bobevans
  • Score: 1

5:34pm Sun 6 Apr 14

varteg1 says...

Quote........"We have far too much dead wood on Newport Council!"

Most council are the same..and rubber stamping the decisions of the officers is just about all what most are fit for.
Quote........"We have far too much dead wood on Newport Council!" Most council are the same..and rubber stamping the decisions of the officers is just about all what most are fit for. varteg1
  • Score: 0

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