Tired councillors call for time limit on council meetings
8:20am Wednesday 26th September 2012 in Latest News
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.”