CamdenNewJournal

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Boring council meetings to get shake-up

Tories call for Labour to share the mayoralty

21 September, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Georgia Gould

COUNCIL leader Georgia Gould is ready to liven up boring and ineffective council meetings by giving more time for the public to speak.

She has ordered a review of sessions such as the monthly all-member meeting, which has become a running in-joke at the Town Hall in recent years for its low-key debates, with councillors reading pre-prepared scripts with monotone deliveries, irrelevant political point-scoring and empty public galleries.

Last week’s full council meeting was considered by some politicians on both sides of the political divide at the Town Hall as a prime example of how uninspiring the sessions have become as there was no time to discuss motions – the one section where councillors actually take a vote on policy. This has become a familiar occurrence in the council chamber. The shocking knife murder of a young man in Camden Town in a broad daylight attack the previous week, meanwhile, was only briefly mentioned despite concerns that youth violence is escalating.

Cllr Gould said: “One of the first tasks is making council meetings less focused on process and more focused on residents’ concerns like youth violence, housing and clean air. We will get more citizens involved in the debate.”

The number of public deputations to the all-member meetings has dwindled, although webcast viewing figures are unknown. Insiders say that there has been a reluctance over the years for the ruling group – whichever party has been in power – to risk changing the format for fear of being embarrassed by confrontations with the public.

It has also been suggested that keeping motions from being discussed – either through congested agendas or filibustering – avoids members having to be on the record about their opinions on thorny topics.

Cllr Gould said she would form a “Citizens Assembly” to bring councillors face-to-face with the public, adding it would be a “Camden-wide conversation about the future of the borough”.

Conservative councillor Claire-Louise Leyland, the leader of the opposition, said: “We’d be very pleased to see council meetings reformed if it means that proper debate of the issues that matter most to our residents could now take place. “We’d also welcome it if Camden Labour reinstated the rotating mayoralty and if they allocated more scrutiny chair positions to opposition councillors.”

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