Councillors who voted for and against curtailment of public speaking

Councillors voting in favour of the amendment (16): [i.e. that public speaking should NOT be curtailed]:

Mike Allen, Susie Bond, Derek Button, Trevor Cope, Steve Gazzard, Pat Graham, Stuart Hughes, Douglas Hull, Ben Ingham, John Jeffery, Sheila Kerridge, Jim Knight, Frances Newth, Brenda Taylor, Graham Troman, Claire Wright.

Councillors voting against the amendment (29): [i.e. those voting FOR public speaking to be curtailed]:

Graham Godbeer, Christine Drew, Paul Diviani, Ray Bloxham, Roger Boote, Peter Bowden, Bob Buxton, David Chapman, Maddy Chapman, Iain Chubb, David Cox, Deborah Custance Baker, Martin Gammell, Steve Hall, Peter Halse, Tony Howard, John Humphreys, David Key, Andrew Moulding, John O’Leary, Helen Parr, Philip Skinner, Pauline Stott, Peter Sullivan, Phil Twiss, Chris Wale, Mark Williamson, Tim Wood, Tom Wright.

Councillors abstaining (4):
Peter Burrows, Jill Elson, Stephanie Jones, Ian Thomas.

Question: how could anyone ABSTAIN on this subject? Surely those abstaining were not ambivalent – if they were they could have made amendments to suit their reservations? To not know whether you are for or against this seems bizarre.

And well done those Tory councillors who voted with the minority – that’s real courage.

13 thoughts on “Councillors who voted for and against curtailment of public speaking

  1. I would like to state publicly my admiration for Cllr Mike Allen, who spoke eloquently and from the heart on why he disagreed with the Public Speaking restrictions, and then voted on his conscience by voting for Cllr Claire Wright’s amendment to postpone these changes.

    Cllr Ian Thomas also spoke eloquently about his concerns with these restrictions, however I guess both his courage and conscience deserted him at the key moment because he then abstained rather than vote for postponement.

    However, there are several key points from the meeting that contradict the reasoning behind these restrictions:

    1. The council later voted unanimously in support of democracy despite having just restricted the ability of the public to speak on matters of importance to them – have they forgotten that they are supposed to be working for us!!

    2. The debate on the public speaking restrictions included the following points:

    a. The average number of public speakers per planning applications is under 1.5. In which case restricting public speaking on minor applications to 2 seems neither necessary nor likely to save sufficient time to make the DMC meetings a more reasonable length.

    b. The proponent of the public speaking restrictions, Cllr Bloxham, quoted me calling him “gasbag” (or Claire Wright’s blog) to much laughter from other councillors – but the reason I lampooned him this way (following in the tradition of far more adept political satirists than I) was because he spoke for 25 minutes at the Overview and Scrutiny committee about his proposals, apparently quoting at length from the written report that had already been submitted and read by the members of that committee. So perhaps better self-control by Cllrs and better chairmanship of the DMC meetings to keep Cllrs succinct and on-topic would have a far greater reduction in the length of these meetings than restricting public speaking.

    c. Paul Diviani said that major, controversial applications would still have special single-application meetings to allow for the large number of objectors – but I really cannot see this council backing away from the 5 speaker limit for major applications, in which case will the council really see it as worthwhile to have separate meetings.

    (To anyone who thinks that in the future they might be so angry about a proposal to e.g. put Tescos in Seaton, Sainsbury or Tesco in Ottery etc., sorry, but you will no longer have the opportunity to be heard.)

    d. I am not quite sure what the logic is for Tory Cllrs thinking that individuals who want to object to a planning application will be able to locate, get together and agree who will speak about what, particularly when, despite being a formal committee with a Chairman and all, members of the DMC are still unable to manage themselves to avoid lengthy speeches and unneeded digressions.

    If it wasn’t so tragic, the ironies of this might be funny.


    • For the record…
      I did not support the full content of colleague Cllr Bloxham’ proposal, particularly that part which potential restricts public speaking on planning applications. As such could not support.
      Similarly, Cllr Wright proposed ‘no change’ for twelve months, which I found similarly unacceptable.
      If you listen to the recording of my comments, you will note I specifically identified concerns with the current DM operation, and suggested consideration of possible alternate approaches to resolving the issues, including a possible division East/West Area committees or a ‘two tier’ arrangement, where perhaps major applications be determined by a senior committee of appropriately experienced Members and minor applications by a second group of Members, perhaps less experienced(?).
      Either could allow the extension of involvement in the planning process to a wider Member group. The latter possibly a succession opportunity for Members, as experience develops? These were new ideas to many at I accept a late stage.
      In that I was unable to secure an alternate proposition be put to Council, I understand for procedural reasons, then neither alternatives were to my liking and the only logical conclusion – abstention….
      This has nothing to do with a failure of either ‘courage’ or ‘conscience’, an idea which I imagine would certainly amuse many Conservative colleagues and probably others who’s ‘underlying’ views I do not always share.
      My personal views on public speaking arrangements, particularly for individuals, remain as I expressed at Full Council.
      However, in that the decision was reached in an appropriate manner, I must accept the outcome.
      I hope that clarifies?


      • Yes, it does, Ian. Thank you for taking the time to explain your reasons for abstaining.


      • Ian, indeed many thanks for your clarification. I apologise wholeheartedly for incorrectly suggesting that your courage and conscience deserted you.

        I do indeed remember that you put forward alternative ways of ensuring that DMC meetings could be shorter, and respected you for stating them at this late stage in the decision making process.

        However, whilst the vote was either to postpone or to proceed immediately, clearly these were not the only possible outcomes as a decision to postpone would have allowed time for further discussions and submission of alternative proposals within (say) the next couple of months. So, I am still unclear why you felt you needed to abstain rather than vote for postponement.


      • No apology necessary Paul, must admit to being a little amused by the conclusions you had drawn.
        Unless I misunderstood, the alternate proposal to adoption was a postponement, initially for 12 months which, in my view, actually precluded rather than allowed time for ‘adjustment’ of the proposals in a timely manner to address current concerns.
        In any event, we all call situations as we see them at the time with all that implies, particularly as was the case here where two options were offered – neither of which I could instinctively support.


  2. Cllr Thomas should be commended for his openness and transparency about his decision-making (although as this is part of the Code of Conduct, it really shouldn’t seem as unusual and remarkable as it does!) His suggested alternatives seem very sensible, and what a pity that ‘procedure’ meant they couldn’t be given due consideration and we ended up with an outcome that was unsatisfactory to a number of councillors almost by default.


  3. Which (IMHO) would be/is an illogical position for anyone to hold, in an environment where (my impression is) a vast majority of Members share the view that the current position required change….
    I don’t understand how that could be in the public interest, or am I missing your thought process?


    • Whose idea was it to get the public speaking resolution into the position of yes/no rather than maybe/but? It presumably would not have taken too much difficulty to postpone the decision to better reflect the views of a large number of councillors of all parties.


      • Exactly!!

        Whilst Cllrs Allen and Thomas should indeed be commended for speaking against the public speaking restrictions (lots of “speaking” there – but then again they are councillors!!! 🙂 ), their attempts to change the parts of the proposals they objected to might have been more successful (i.e. not stymied by “procedure”) if attempted earlier at either the Overview and Scrutiny Committee or Cabinet discussions. And a bit of hand wringing and excuses about procedure at the last minutes does seem “too little, too late”?

        But then again, as Emma points out, the reason that Cllrs Allen and Thomas stand out is because their colleagues on the Tory benches seem blind / apathetic to either the immorality or the illogicality of Cllr Bloxham’s proposals.


      • Paul,
        Not to ‘flog the horse’… but a final contribution from me to this string…
        The first para of your comment 01-08 4.44pm is fair, in that the view I expressed might have been more successful had it been expressed earlier.
        Whilst I would not comment for Cllr Allen, I was unavoidably absent (trust me, I would much rather have been present than where I was – but that’s another story!) from the Full Council Meeting on 9th April, when my colleague Cllr Bloxham spoke in response to a Minute from Development Management Committee. This was then referred to Overview and Scrutiny. (I am a member of neither DM or O&S nor, in the context of the demands of my other extensive Council Portfolio commitments, would I necessarily routinely attend).
        The item came back from O&S to Cabinet on 2nd June and, I must admit that, as it had followed a path of review from DM-Full Council-O&S then Cabinet, en route to Full Council again, I perhaps did not focus as much attention as in hindsight I would have wished, within the typically long agenda of business being conducted that evening.
        The events of Full Council on the 23rd July are a matter of record.
        Whilst it may not draw the wider support of your readership, I should add that I started my contribution on this issue at Full Council by sincerely commending Cllr Bloxham for identifying an issue of real concern in Council operations and, rather than just ‘leaving it’, he had sought to deliver improvement.
        Whilst Cllr Bloxham and I did not agree on the totality of his conclusions (although they had of course been through several committees before) it is important that Members in positions of responsibility never become fearful of ‘mooting’ ideas for debate – that is how we can progress and best serve those we represent.
        Finally, I would consider an alternate interpretation of the results of the recorded voting? Once the item had been fully aired with a large majority of Members from all parties present, it was clear that Members were animated and engaged, rather than being ‘blind’ or ‘apathetic’ on all ‘sides’ of the chamber, and took the opportunity to vote based on their own judgement.
        Whilst I did not agree with the majority – or even all but three of the remainder!, in my personal voting, I do respect their choice to express their individual view freely, as was apparently the case here.
        Clearly need to try harder to persuade next time…
        Moving on….


      • When does “mooting ideas for debate” become “railroading my ideas come hell or high water and causing embarrassment to those who do not agree with me” one must wonder!

        The behaviour of many councillors (not Councillor Thomas) and ALL officers at the meeting – both personal and intellectual – was well below the standard one would have expected to see.


      • Ian,

        First let me say that I very much appreciate (and respect) you taking the time to explain the reasons behind your actions. This openness (cf. other Tory cllrs) is very refreshing.

        That said, as someone pointed out at Council, and I think it was our “esteemed” council leader Paul Diviani, any councillor can attend any committee and speak if they wish. So, whilst you might not have been aware of it at DMC, you might well have been aware of it as Cllr Bloxham was circulating it and running a forum for discussion (perhaps the best time to have given your input as ideas were being formulated), and it was reasonably well publicised by the time it got to O&S (and you could have spoken up then).

        I am sure that most people would agree that some committee meetings go on for too long, and many (myself included) would commend Cllr Bloxham for “taking-on” the task of improving the way committees go about their business. But, there is no logic to his proposals for fixing the length of DMC meetings – it was clear from what was said at council that public speaking restrictions will save perhaps 15 minutes of an 11 hour meeting, and you yourself proposed much more suitable alternatives. So Cllr Bloxham’s intentions may have been good, but when it comes to improving the efficiencies of committee meetings his proposals stink!

        Those of us who think that democracy is more than just voting once every few years, believe that not only are the public speaking parts of Cllr Bloxham’s proposals anti-democratic, but the way that the council goes about much of its decision making on significant items like this is secretive and anti-democratic too.

        I do not suggest that we debate the decision making process in this thread, but I am happy to debate it in more depth in a new blog entry.


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