Brent Council dubbed ‘control freaks’ over plans to ban public debates in town hall meetings

Brent Council have axed public debates

Brent Council have axed public debates - Credit: Archant

Brent Council have been accused of becoming ‘control freaks’ after they revealed plans to ban public debates on key issues during town hall meetings.

The chance for residents to openly discuss issues affecting the borough will be axed if council chiefs approve controversial plans at a meeting this evening.

Under the new proposals, three residents will be able to speak for a maximum of five minutes during a dedicated time slot in each council meeting.

In a further twist, the seven opposition councillors in Brent will be forced to provide a written notice of questions seven days in advance - whilst supplementary questions would be banned.

Michael Calderbank, co-editor of a political magazine and member of Brent Fightback, said: “This smacks of control freakery.

“Now that opposition parties are so weakly represented on Brent Council it is all the more important that the decisions of the ruling Labour group are properly accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny.

“Though these plans will finally allow deputations of the public a hearing at full council meetings, this will still be purely at the discretion of an unelected council officer.”

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Commenting on plans for opposition councillors to submit questions in advance, he added: “It will give officers plenty of time to write bland, pre-prepared responses for politicians to parrot back.”

Labour won the local elections with a landslide victory that saw their seats surge from 40 to 56.

The Tories remained the same with six seats while the Lib Dems were almost wiped out after losing 14 of their 15 seats.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of the council, said the new plans were being proposed to promote accountability and transparency and deputations were more effective in tackle key issues facing the borough.

He added: “If you actually take a look on what have been discussed in these debates in the past, you’d see that topics such the Olympics and mentions of prominent speakers has been a key part.

“With our recent landslide victory, it is more important than ever to allow people to have their say and to ensure that we continue to deliver good services.”

He continued: “We are not trying to say people are not allowed to ask question, instead, this reform is designed to provide honest and detailed answers to important questions.”

Other notable proposals include amendments to allow the leader of the council to have a right for reply in first reading debates, review of the number of allowed, and a move to finish council meeting proceedings by 10pm.