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New rules for public speakers at Redbridge Council meetings

PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 January 2020

Manford Way campaigners outside Redbridge Town Hall on September 20, putting forward a petition which has been signed by 4,000 people in Hainault. Picture: Ashley Papworth

Manford Way campaigners outside Redbridge Town Hall on September 20, putting forward a petition which has been signed by 4,000 people in Hainault. Picture: Ashley Papworth

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Redbridge Council has announced new public participation rules at its meetings, meaning speakers can't ask the same question more than once in a six-month period.

The new rules, set to be approved at a meeting on Tuesday, January 7, also mean speakers at cabinet and committee meetings can only ask questions that are related to an item on the agenda.

Questions at full council meetings can still be on any subject matter, but questions may be rejected if they are "substantially" the same as another question asked in the previous six months.

The public participation rules for petitions would remain unchanged, but the provision for a debate between councillors following a deputation would be removed from the constitution.

"Public participation at Redbridge's decision-making bodies is dominated by a small group of people with views on a limited number of topics," the council report to the general purposes committee says.

"This means that a wider majority of residents either do not know how to get involved in decision-making, or choose not to do so."

Redbridge has a population of more than 300,000 residents and last year 26 people made statements, asked questions, or led deputations or petitions at council, cabinet and overview meetings.

"This represents just 0.01per cent of residents," the report says.

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"Such a small number of voices is not necessarily likely to be representative of the wider community.

"Therefore, many of our residents are not being heard."

The council also noted that public participation is dominated by a few individuals speaking multiple time on the same subject.

"It is clear to others at these meetings that speakers are already known to Members and that there have been previous interactions on the same matters," the report says.

"This can be confusing and exclusionary for members of the public attending meetings for the first time."

The council is also proposing to become more proactive in sharing meeting agendas directly with faith groups, community groups and business improvements districts.

"In order to shape council services to meet the needs of a wider cross section of residents the council may need to be more proactive in seeking out alternative views," the report says.

"This initiative could lead to an increased understanding and awareness of why public participation in meetings is important."

The council hopes these new rules and proposals will increase participation from hard to reach and underrepresented groups in the borough.

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