News OnTheWight were told that last night’s Lake Parish Council meeting, a debate about changes to the Standing Orders, had the potential to almost become viral.
Cllr Bob Blezzard had put forward a motion proposing restrictions to the number of questions members of the public can ask, and how.
He proposed that online meetings should be restricted to written questions only, and they should be submitted to the Clerk at least 24 hours in advance. Not only that, but only one question, not exceeding 150 words, could be asked.
Read the Standing Orders
During the public question time it was claimed the process had breached the Parish Council’s very own Standing Orders, as it had only been proposed in writing by one councillor, not two.
The Chairperson, Sue Horton, tried to attach herself to the motion saying she agreed with it and would be the second councillor, but it was pointed out repeatedly by Cllr Adrian Whitaker that this still breached the Standing Orders, as it hadn’t been done in advance of the meeting.
Former parish councillor, John Marshall, who resigned over the public toilet mix-up last year, said the motion had not been submitted “two days beforehand in writing by two council members” and asked for the Proper Officer’s comments. The Clerk, Mike Taplin, said he thought believed the motion was in order.
A proposal to defer the debate until the next meeting was seconded by Cllr Tig Outlaw.
Brading: “Personally motivated”
Cllr Paul Brading said he felt the motion seemed “personally motivated rather than business motivated”. He asked why it was coming forward now, after months of remote meetings, adding,
“I do feel it’s a reaction to recent meetings where Cllr Blezzard became agitated with certain members of the public.”
He asked all councillors to,
“Consider your position very carefully about the decision to try and silence the public, ruining the good relationship Lake PC has with its residents.”
Horton: “Using up broadband”
The Chairperson (Cllr Horton) argued that it was difficult to see and hear people on the Zoom calls and having written questions would be more favourable until they returned to face-to-face meetings.
She said questions being asked about subjects that “aren’t necessarily relevant” would be using up people’s broadband allocations.
Member of the public, Steve Parkes – who said he would be standing for the council in the May elections – said he felt the motion was “pretty much aimed at me”, which Cllr Horton denied, arguing that it was about asking questions that were not relevant to Lake.
Vote to carry on with debate
Cllr Horton called a vote as to whether to go ahead with the debate and it was voted five in favour, with three against.
Cllr Whitaker enthusiastically announced that any councillors who voted on the motion would be reported to the Monitoring Officer the next morning.
Blezzard: “I don’t react to threats”
Cllr Blezzard went ahead to propose his motion, adding that he noted Cllr Whittaker’s comments, adding “I don’t react to threats”.
He said his motion was “based on changes made to Isle of Wight council constitution and if it is good enough for IWC it should be good enough for Lake PC”.
He added that they had already seen “one would-be councillor abusing question time”.
Deferred until next meeting
The Chair agreed to leave the vote until next month when they would have a new proposal with two signatures.
Lake Parish Council meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month. See their Website for more details.