Liberal Democrats have slammed a decision by the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee to confirm new rules limiting speakers, which are more restrictive than rules currently used by some of the existing local authorities. The new rules ban members of the public from asking questions unless they are asked in writing two weeks in advance, and cannot even ask to speak unless they do so up to 5 days in advance.
Chris Nelson, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Kettering, attended the meeting but due to the restrictive rules was not permitted to speak against the proposals to limit the right of the public to participate in meetings.
The Joint Committee is overwhelmingly Conservative and does not include any representatives of Liberal Democrat or Independent Councillors.
Commenting afterwards on the decision, Chris Nelson said:
"It is no surprise that the committee was not willing to deviate from proposed rules on public participation, given how committed Conservative council leaders are to minimising public participation on any aspect of the new Unitary Authority.
"At County Hall, the Conservative leadership has shamefully stamped down on public free speech in meetings and they are now trying to do at the shadow Unitary Authority. They pretend it is normal to make members of the public ask permission many days in advance, and to ban even councillors from observing unitary authority strategy meetings. Yet Kettering Borough Council has been welcoming public speakers without notice for well over a decade! "
"Tonight even Conservative backbench Councillors on the committee were complaining of being kept in the dark. What hope have residents got of making their voice heard?"
"After this meeting, residents will understandably conclude that a Conservative-run unitary authority would simply be business as usual. The need for change has never been clearer."