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Ex-mayor wants a break in council meetings
FORMER mayor Doreen Dart says full council meetings can be significantly shortened – by having a 15-minute break.
After last Thursday’s five-hour meeting finished just before midnight, councillors claimed members can be so tired by the end of it they struggle to make decisions – and called for a maximum length to be imposed on meetings.
However, Coun Dart (Con, Blunsdon and Highworth ), who has been a councillor for 25 years, said that in her tenure as mayor she found a break at about 9pm helped to shorten meetings as it refreshed and focused members’ minds to crack on with business.
She is calling on Coun Mick Bray, the mayor, to adopt the procedure of a routine recess halfway through to give councillors and officers the chance to have a break.
She said: “When I was mayor in 1993/1994 we started meetings at 6pm. There were pre-meetings at 5pm. If we hadn’t got anywhere by 9pm, I called a recess.
“The mayor can do what he likes and Mick could have called a recess. I got home at 12.50am, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I think they like the sound of their own voices.
“The idea I had years ago was to make certain that we didn’t debate on and just come back with the same ideas, but with a fresh approach. “You weren’t half-dead when you came back and it improved the quality of decision-making.”
But Coun Bray, who normally only has breaks to allow parties to negotiate changes to motions, argued that a 15-minute break would simply extend the meetings.
He said: “I wouldn’t do it without consulting with the leaders of each group. And the other thing is we have got to be careful of is if you’ve got four or five motions, as there were on Thursday night, you cannot stop a motion halfway through because it would be unfair. You can only really do it at the end of a motion.
“And when you’ve done a motion it means other people, who’ve spoken on for a long time on that motion, can speak for a long time on the next motion, after your 15-minute break.”
Council leader Rod Bluh has said he welcomes any suggestions to reduce the length of meetings, which should be put to the corporate governance committee for discussion.