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Kent County Council councillors to vote on 'people power' motion

By Paul Francis

County councillors will be urged to allow members of the public to ask questions directly at meetings in a move aimed at enhancing "people power".

Opposition Liberal Democrats will today ask the council to investigate a scheme whereby the public could ask questions about local issues or policy decisions at full council meetings.

The idea of a public question time will be put forward by Cllr Rob Bird, the opposition party leader, who will say the public should be able to have more of a say in the council’s decisions.

County Hall in Maidstone
County Hall in Maidstone

He will ask councillors to vote on a recommendation that states: "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 council explore options...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."

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Rob Bird.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Rob Bird.

Under current arrangements, the council’s scheme for petitions permits the public to address councillors where they secure enough signatures but there is no other way of doing so.

However, the threshold for addressing meetings on county-wide issues is 10,000 and has only rarely been achieved.

Medway council already operates a public question scheme under which residents can table written questions that are then answered by councillors at full council meetings.

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