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Kent Tories ban public from speaking at meetings. What are they so worried about?

December 7, 2017 9:28 PM
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Members of the public remain banned from asking questions at Kent County Council meetings after out-of-touch Tories voted down a Liberal Democrat proposal.

Twenty or more county councils including Kent's neighbours, East Sussex, Essex and Surrey, encourage the public to participate in meetings, as does Medway Council Rob Birdand all but one of the county's district councils. So what are the Conservatives so worried about?

To bring Kent in line with other authorities, the Liberal Democrats proposed that KCC should permit members of the public to speak at council meetings by introducing a public question time. Disappointingly, the Tories voted the motion down.

Speaking after Thursday's debate, Rob Bird, the Leader of the Opposition, said: "It is vital that this Council clearly demonstrates that we do all listen to the people of Kent. Their views matter, their questions matter, their scrutiny matters.

"We can and should be taking this small step to reach out to Kent's residents.

"Far too many people think their elected representatives are out of touch. They think they don't listen and they don't care.

"This is may not be fair on the many hard-working councillors who are dedicated advocates on behalf of local residents and local communities. But, the low turnout at council elections suggests that the majority of people feel very little connection with their representatives in County Hall."

Ida Linfield, the Liberal Democrat Member for Canterbury City South, added: "Other councils have modernised but Kent County Council seems to be stuck in the past. It's time for Kent's Conservatives to get out of their bubble and to listen to Kent's residents."

To watch Thursday's debate at County Hall, click here and go to item 10.

The wording of the Liberal Democrat motion proposed by Rob Bird and seconded by Ida Linfield was as follows:

Public Question Time

"This Council faces considerable and increasing challenges including growing demand, rising costs and reduction in government funding. To ensure that we continue to deliver the services that matter most to the people of Kent, public engagement is vital.

This Council supports the principle of public participation in County Council meetings.

This Council therefore agrees to request that the General Counsel explore options and present a paper to the meeting in March 2018 to introduce a Public Question Time to ensure that we meet the Council's priorities and to join with our District colleagues and other County Council peers in introducing the ability for the residents to have their say."