A DCC meeting tomorrow that will show if democracy is dead or alive at the council

From the Facebook page of Claire Wright:

“PROCEDURES COMMITTEE TO DEBATE RELAXING PUBLIC SPEAKING RULES, TOMORROW
Devon County Council’s Procedures Committee will consider my proposal to relax public speaking rules at committee meetings, at tomorrow morning’s meeting.

I asked for the agenda item, following the January Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting, where I was prevented from asking a question of Dr Mike Slot, Sidmouth GP, who had addressed the meeting about his concern that care at home may not be working as effectively as it should.
Care at home is the system which replaced the loss of many community hospital beds, 72 of which closed locally last year.

Across Devon, around 250 community hospital beds have been shut since 2012.
Up until 2016 there was no public speaking at scrutiny committee meetings which was quite wrong, especially for Health Scrutiny as the committee’s remit is to take up matters of public concern.

The lack of public speaking resulted in frustration from members of the public who heckled and shouted when they heard the NHS representatives say things they disagreed with, or believed were untrue.

In February 2016, Devon County Council unanimously backed my proposal to bring in public speaking at scrutiny meetings…. and they have functioned much more democratically as a result, following this decision.

However, there was a problem in January, where I was prevented from asking a question from a Sidmouth GP who had addressed the committee with concerns about care at home on the basis it was contrary to standing orders.

The upshot of the refusal was that the committee would have simply have allowed Dr Slot to walk out the room without further information or investigation, if I hadn’t then proposed a spotlight review into the issue.
So that’s the background to tomorrow’s meeting.

I have also asked for some flexibility on the issue of members of the public needing to register four days ahead of the meeting to speak.

Again, at the January meeting, this rule resulted in one member of the public speaking, leaving other members of the public who hadn’t managed to register in advance, unable to speak! There was nine minutes left of time too. What a waste of an opportunity to hear members of the public’s views.
To me these are simple issues and matters of common sense. We need to enable members of the public to participate, not get stuck behind the bureaucracy. I will see how the rest of the committee views it…”