Opinions split over plan to limit council debates

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A NEW limit could be imposed on the number of topics councillors can put forward for debate at South Kesteven Disitrict Council.

The authority’s current rules allow each member to raise three motions to be discussed during meetings of the full council.

But a suggestion put forward by the council’s constitution committee could mean the number is cut to one to make sure each topic is given enough time to be debated in full.

The idea has divided opinion among councillors.

District councillor Mark Ashberry (Lab) said: “These constitutional changes will further strangle open democratic debate.

“The question which must be asked is why does the Conservative group wish to restrict the amount of motions that can be debated at council meetings? This gives the appearance that there are some subjects they do not want to discuss and could give the impression that they have something to hide.”

A member of the public also questioned the idea during the meeting, which took place on Monday.

They said: “Obviously there has not been an issue in the past and it seems that this is an extraordinary suggestion to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, whilst in the meantime damaging democracy and restricting our elected representatives.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Harrish Bisnauthsing is also against the proposal.

He said: “This is stifling democracy and I am not very happy about it.

“We are elected to represent all the electorate but how are we supposed to do this if we can only discuss one topic per meeting?

“I am definitely against the reduction.”

During the meeting councillors heard that the council has considered 27 motions on notice during the last five years, which equates to five per year.

In addition to limiting the number of motions each councillor can put forward, the committee has also recommended that only two motions should be debated per meeting, which would double this number to 10 motions per year.

Conservative councillor Ray Auger, who represents Deeping St James, believes it is a positive move for democracy.

He said: “I approve of the idea. There have never been any problems with getting a motion discussed at a meeting and the chairman has produced figures which show that this proposal will actually double the number of motions which can be debated.”

The recommendation will need to be approved at a meeting of all 58 district councillors before it is introduced.

No Independent councillors from South Kesteven District Council were available for comment yesterday.