THE council is set to change the rules surrounding public question time at meetings in order to prevent them from getting out of control.
It follows a number of meetings in which the question time session, meant to last only 15 minutes, has overrun significantly, most notably at the last full council meeting in April when there was almost an hour of questions.
Concerns have been raised that if this is allowed to continue then the issues to be discussed at the meeting will not get the attention required.
If the changes are approved, there will be an emphasis on trying to get members of the public to write in with their question in advance, allowing members to find an answer, while also increasing the amount of time available to others who want to ask a question.
Another change will be to limit each questioner to one supplementary question, regardless of how many normal questions there are.
Council leader David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “Public Question Times have been getting longer for a time now and something needed to be changed.
“While it is important the public are given the opportunity to engage with the cabinet, the point of the meetings is for members to debate important issues.
“As anyone who was present in April will have seen, the meeting was dominated by Public Question Time which really shouldn’t be the case.
“One of the difficulties is a lot of people tend to ask questions which require details the member doesn’t have at that point so is forced to respond with written answers.”
It is hoped if people send in their questions it will allow the session to be more free flowing and written questions will be given precedence at the meeting.
Coun Renard said: “It is very important that people have the chance to speak with the cabinet but it is important that it is done in a sensible way.”
The changes will be discussed at Friday’s council meeting, when the new mayor, Teresa Page, will be formally elected.
There is also a proposal for the answers to written questions to be put online after the meeting so the public will be able to view them.