Democracy 'dying' in Newport - councillor
7:10am Thursday 1st May 2014 in News
A MOTION to change the way council meetings are conducted was denied by Newport council, despite opposition councillors claiming democracy was "dying" in the city.
The motion proposed that “questions to the Leader of the Council, cabinet members and chairs should not be restricted to questions written in advance and should return to a process that allows these members to be asked questions without notice.”
Moving the motion on Tuesday, Cllr David Fouweather asked the council to “return to a democratic system that works.”
But Cllr Ray Truman said: “The council is more open now than it’s ever been.”
Leader of the council, Bob Bright also opposed and said: “The Welsh Assembly Government use the same system. It’s nonsense and you know it.”
Cllr Fouweather claimed the assembly are less rigid on the supplementary questions than Newport council.
Cllr Paul Hannon spoke against the motion and said it was “way out of date”. He referred to speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow’s criticisms of Prime Minister’s questions and said: “That is actually what you are proposing we step back to today.”
Cllr Hannon went on to say he would like to see the public given the opportunity to come to council and put questions to the councillors.
“That is how you open the doors to democracy,” he said.
But Cllr David Williams, who seconded the motion, said: “It will improve democracy and certainly improve knowledge and education."
Cllr Matthew Evans agreed and said: “We have less scrutiny. This is an opportunity for back benchers from across parties to see how their members perform in council. This is the opportunity for you to shine, for you to perform.
“The system doesn’t work so why not have the opportunity to ask a proper supplementary question.”
Cllr Debbie Wilcox said under the current system, there was less time wasting. She said: “It’s much more focused and professional.”
But addressing back benchers, Cllr Fouweather said: “You must want an opportunity to test your executives - to ask the questions that matter to get the answers that count to your residents.”
Later in the meeting, Chair of the council Mayor Cliff Suller intervened to stop councillors putting questions to Bob Bright on the proposed Improvement Plan, claiming they were there to debate the matter, saying it was “not a question and answer session.” The plan was subsequently passed with no objections and no debate.
Cllr Fouweather said: “We tried to ask questions on it and the mayor closed us down.
“Democracy in Newport is dying.”
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