Tired councillors call for time limit on council meetings

This Is Wiltshire: Mike Bawden and Rod Bluh at a council meeting Mike Bawden and Rod Bluh at a council meeting

LENGTHY meetings mean that Swindon councillors are often so tired they struggle to make decisions, it is claimed.

Two former mayors are calling for a maximum length to be imposed on full council meetings, following a late finish of just before midnight last week.

Coun Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden , Eldene and Park South ) and Coun Stan Pajak (Lib Dem, Eastcott) say long-running meetings not only wear out council members but deter young people from standing as councillors.

They say all full council meetings should aim to be finished by 10.30pm, unless there are exceptional circumstances, to help improve the quality of debate and decisions, and that there should be recommended periods of debate for each agenda item or motion.

Coun Montaut said: “I think we want to have a guillotine for the length of period the meeting should run for. If we’re going to extend that, we have got to have the permission of council and there needs to be extenuating circumstances. And for each item we should welcome an approximate time for each particular item.

“Longer meetings don’t help the group decision-making process. And some important items are put on at the end. The people are too tired to properly evaluate it and the result is things get decided when they want to be more scrutinised.”

Their call comes after Thursday’s full council meeting, which started at 7pm and finished at about 11.40pm. Only half of the six motions were discussed and voted on by 10.30pm.

The political parties normally hold private group meetings for about an hour directly before the full council meeting.

Coun Pajak, who had to get up at 5am on Friday for work after the 11.40pm finish on Thursday, said he backed the 10.30pm maximum length and thought it should be reviewed.

“I’m happy with the idea of reviewing it,” he said. “I think it’s a positive suggestion.

“I would be in favour of that to see if there’s a way to make them flow better because people do disappear at the end. I believe that a lot of people lose interest or disappear.”

But council leader Rod Bluh said he did not support a guillotine because he thought it more democratic for everyone to have their say.

“All sensible suggestions as to how we keep the length of the meetings as short as possible will be greatly received,” he said.

“If they have got any proposals to put they can take them to the corporate governance committee for discussion.

“The length of the meetings is usually directly proportionate to the number of motions the Labour Party submits, and many would agree a lot of motions are political and have nothing to do with practical solutions for the council.”

Comments (12)

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8:26am Wed 26 Sep 12

Bobfm , says...

Maybe if Rod Bluh talked less guff these meetings would end quicker
Maybe if Rod Bluh talked less guff these meetings would end quicker Bobfm ,

8:33am Wed 26 Sep 12

swindondad says...

As we have councillors who have to hold down a full time job alongside there council responsibilities it would seem only fare that we restrict how late they have to work.
Thinking about it the late night sittings could lead to those with full time jobs falling foul of the EU working time directive.
As we have councillors who have to hold down a full time job alongside there council responsibilities it would seem only fare that we restrict how late they have to work. Thinking about it the late night sittings could lead to those with full time jobs falling foul of the EU working time directive. swindondad

8:50am Wed 26 Sep 12

RichardR1 says...

No one asked them to be Councillors, if they don't like the hours then they should resign.

swindondad I thought we had an opt out from the WTD. Also is being an elected Councillor considered work, they don't get paid they get allowances.
No one asked them to be Councillors, if they don't like the hours then they should resign. swindondad I thought we had an opt out from the WTD. Also is being an elected Councillor considered work, they don't get paid they get allowances. RichardR1

9:04am Wed 26 Sep 12

Russell Holland says...

I would oppose a time limit. The Councillors could resolve this by deciding between them how much time to give which motions. On some motions there is agreement between the parties and as such it may be that through discussions beforehand it may not be necessary to have a debate at full Council.

The other point is that if there is a set time limit then it may potentially limit the ability of Councillors to raise issues because there are a lot of matters to be discussed and if more time is spent earlier on then there would be less time left towards the end of the meeting.

The Leaders of all the political groups can sit down together and reach an agreement to resolve this.
I would oppose a time limit. The Councillors could resolve this by deciding between them how much time to give which motions. On some motions there is agreement between the parties and as such it may be that through discussions beforehand it may not be necessary to have a debate at full Council. The other point is that if there is a set time limit then it may potentially limit the ability of Councillors to raise issues because there are a lot of matters to be discussed and if more time is spent earlier on then there would be less time left towards the end of the meeting. The Leaders of all the political groups can sit down together and reach an agreement to resolve this. Russell Holland

9:08am Wed 26 Sep 12

AndyJH says...

With time limits already set on the length of time that Councillors can speak on any item the issue must clearly be the amount of items under discussion.
Looking at recent agendas it is very clear that too many purely politically motivated motions, which in themselves will be of little if any benefit to the residents of Swindon, are being put proposed purely for the media publicity.
As committee structures are politically balanced then maybe it is time to politically balance the number of motions being put forward. Any motion where there is cross party support or where a matter is deemed a matter of urgency would not need to be subjected to such a political balance.
Councillors are there to speak out for those who have entrusted them with their vote and meetings should not need be curtailed so that councillors can get home early.
With time limits already set on the length of time that Councillors can speak on any item the issue must clearly be the amount of items under discussion. Looking at recent agendas it is very clear that too many purely politically motivated motions, which in themselves will be of little if any benefit to the residents of Swindon, are being put proposed purely for the media publicity. As committee structures are politically balanced then maybe it is time to politically balance the number of motions being put forward. Any motion where there is cross party support or where a matter is deemed a matter of urgency would not need to be subjected to such a political balance. Councillors are there to speak out for those who have entrusted them with their vote and meetings should not need be curtailed so that councillors can get home early. AndyJH

9:42am Wed 26 Sep 12

RichardR1 says...

AndyJH, I agree with most of you post, it is evident given the many stories produced in this paper that Councillors are playing party politics, and dare I say it, electioneering.

It crosses all the Parties. Electioneering should be restricted to the official periods.

We do not need to see endless Councillors leaning on a fence with a field in the background, or in the squat position looking at a pot hole, what we need is those Councillors spending their time discussing how to resolve issues informally, taking only the most controversial to Council.

Russell I am pleased to note you disagree with your colleagues.
AndyJH, I agree with most of you post, it is evident given the many stories produced in this paper that Councillors are playing party politics, and dare I say it, electioneering. It crosses all the Parties. Electioneering should be restricted to the official periods. We do not need to see endless Councillors leaning on a fence with a field in the background, or in the squat position looking at a pot hole, what we need is those Councillors spending their time discussing how to resolve issues informally, taking only the most controversial to Council. Russell I am pleased to note you disagree with your colleagues. RichardR1

12:13pm Wed 26 Sep 12

dglaholm says...

Start sooner than the current time. County Council meetings used to start at 10.30 in the morning when I was a member....Councillor
s are allowed time off work to attend meetings....
Simples......
Start sooner than the current time. County Council meetings used to start at 10.30 in the morning when I was a member....Councillor s are allowed time off work to attend meetings.... Simples...... dglaholm

1:53pm Wed 26 Sep 12

house on the hill says...

Surely meetings should take as long as they need to resolve the issues being discussed? Presumably at home they set aside a fixed time to do the washing up and what doesn't get done stays dirty?

Sadly the problem with all politicians is self servance and self importance rather than working for those who elected them, but that will never change nationally or locally, cut the **** and they would be home before it gets dark.....

And if they made the right decisions in the first place they wouldn't need to keep revisiting the same old things again and again and save loads of time!!!!! Muppets the lot of them.
Surely meetings should take as long as they need to resolve the issues being discussed? Presumably at home they set aside a fixed time to do the washing up and what doesn't get done stays dirty? Sadly the problem with all politicians is self servance and self importance rather than working for those who elected them, but that will never change nationally or locally, cut the **** and they would be home before it gets dark..... And if they made the right decisions in the first place they wouldn't need to keep revisiting the same old things again and again and save loads of time!!!!! Muppets the lot of them. house on the hill

3:31pm Wed 26 Sep 12

The Real Librarian says...

"Their call comes after Thursday’s full council meeting, which started at 7pm and finished at about 11.40pm. Only half of the six motions were discussed and voted on by 10.30pm"

So what were these importtant motions?

Councillor Jim Grant will move and Councillor Stan Pajak will second:



“Swindon Borough Council recognises the role that UNISON has with regard to consultation, negotiation and representation on behalf of the Council’s employees.

Following consultation on the proposal to reduce central funding for UNISON facility time, Swindon Borough Council believes that the most efficient and effective way of meeting its responsibilities as an employer in its relationship with UNISON is to continue to centrally fund the equivalent of 1.5 full-time posts to undertake this role. Accordingly, Council urges Cabinet to request a report from the Head of People and Change as to how this can be achieved.”


In other words, can the council keep subsidising the union to the tune of of 1.5 salaries?

No - next!

Motion - Allotments

Councillor Cindy Matthews will move and Councillor Steve Wakefield will second that:

“This Council recognizes the role its allotments play in bringing exercise, fresh food and a sense of self-sufficiency to many of its local residents.



This Council notes that there is a large waiting list for allotment plots, while many of Swindon Council's allotment plotshave been left unused for a number of months.


This Council notes the expression of interest from the Swindon Allotment and Leisure Gardens Association, an organisation representing the views of Swindon's allotment holders, for taking over the management of Swindon Borough Council's allotments.


With this in mind, Council requests Cabinet to consider establishing an allotments cooperative organisation, which will manage and collect the rents from the users of Swindon Borough Council’s allotment sites.

Prior to Cabinet considering this, this Council requests that the Lead Member establishes a cross-party working group to produce detailed recommendations to Cabinet of how this Co-operative organisation will work in practice and how the users of Swindon Borough Council’s allotments can play a much greater role in managing these allotments.”

OK, take the discussion out of the meeting - agreed. Next

8c
Motion - Green Waste Collections

“This Council expresses its concern at the present standard of green waste collection within the Borough and requests that the Cabinet produce a report for the next Council meeting outlining what action will be taken to improve the service”

.OK, fine, will do. Next

How did that take more than ten minutes?

Answer because the Labour group talked their backsides off on the first motion for forever and a day.

Stan, it was your own time you were wasting.
"Their call comes after Thursday’s full council meeting, which started at 7pm and finished at about 11.40pm. Only half of the six motions were discussed and voted on by 10.30pm" So what were these importtant motions? Councillor Jim Grant will move and Councillor Stan Pajak will second: “Swindon Borough Council recognises the role that UNISON has with regard to consultation, negotiation and representation on behalf of the Council’s employees. Following consultation on the proposal to reduce central funding for UNISON facility time, Swindon Borough Council believes that the most efficient and effective way of meeting its responsibilities as an employer in its relationship with UNISON is to continue to centrally fund the equivalent of 1.5 full-time posts to undertake this role. Accordingly, Council urges Cabinet to request a report from the Head of People and Change as to how this can be achieved.” In other words, can the council keep subsidising the union to the tune of of 1.5 salaries? No - next! Motion - Allotments Councillor Cindy Matthews will move and Councillor Steve Wakefield will second that: “This Council recognizes the role its allotments play in bringing exercise, fresh food and a sense of self-sufficiency to many of its local residents. This Council notes that there is a large waiting list for allotment plots, while many of Swindon Council's allotment plotshave been left unused for a number of months. This Council notes the expression of interest from the Swindon Allotment and Leisure Gardens Association, an organisation representing the views of Swindon's allotment holders, for taking over the management of Swindon Borough Council's allotments. With this in mind, Council requests Cabinet to consider establishing an allotments cooperative organisation, which will manage and collect the rents from the users of Swindon Borough Council’s allotment sites. Prior to Cabinet considering this, this Council requests that the Lead Member establishes a cross-party working group to produce detailed recommendations to Cabinet of how this Co-operative organisation will work in practice and how the users of Swindon Borough Council’s allotments can play a much greater role in managing these allotments.” OK, take the discussion out of the meeting - agreed. Next 8c Motion - Green Waste Collections “This Council expresses its concern at the present standard of green waste collection within the Borough and requests that the Cabinet produce a report for the next Council meeting outlining what action will be taken to improve the service” .OK, fine, will do. Next How did that take more than ten minutes? Answer because the Labour group talked their backsides off on the first motion for forever and a day. Stan, it was your own time you were wasting. The Real Librarian

4:26pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Bobfm , says...

Which conservative councillor are you then Real Librarian? Please let it be that idiot Greenhalgh ;-)
Which conservative councillor are you then Real Librarian? Please let it be that idiot Greenhalgh ;-) Bobfm ,

6:05pm Wed 26 Sep 12

itsamess3 says...

Get rid of the unfit older councillors--have more Council meetings and ensure that all councillors attend all meetings.
Get rid of the unfit older councillors--have more Council meetings and ensure that all councillors attend all meetings. itsamess3

10:30am Thu 27 Sep 12

The Real Librarian says...

Bobfm , says...
4:26pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Which conservative councillor are you then Real Librarian? Please let it be that idiot Greenhalgh ;-)”



I'm not a councillor - its all on the website
Bobfm , says... 4:26pm Wed 26 Sep 12 Which conservative councillor are you then Real Librarian? Please let it be that idiot Greenhalgh ;-)” I'm not a councillor - its all on the website The Real Librarian

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