Questions from Parishioners
A Parish Council meeting is not a public meeting, but a meeting that is held in public. All members of the public have a statutory right to attend council meetings as observers, but as part of our commitment to community engagement, we also choose to set aside time at each meeting, to hold a public forum called “questions from parishioners”. Members of the public are welcome to attend to ask questions about agenda items or issues causing concern. Submissions (to the Parish Clerk) in advance of the meeting are welcomed so that questions can be answered more fully.
The conduct of this “questions from parishioners” has to be governed by a set of guidelines or standing orders, which we ask those involved, to respect (see below).
Members of the public are very welcome to stay for the remainder of the Council meeting, as observers, but they will not be able to join in any subsequent discussions. If confidential items (e.g. staffing issues) are discussed, members of the public may be excluded.
Questions from Parishioners Guidelines
- The Chairman will decide in which order matters will be heard.
- The Chairman will decide whether an immediate response will be given at the meeting or to respond to the matter in writing. Written responses will be provided within 10 working days.
- Each member of the public is entitled to speak once in respect of each matter and for a maximum of 3 minutes, with 15 minutes being allocated overall for the questions from parishioners’ section. (These limits may be extended at the discretion of the Chairman.)
- Questions must be addressed through the chair. All those present will act respectfully and will not act in a manner that demeans, insults, threatens or intimidates others. Offensive or threatening behaviour will not be tolerated and Council reserves the right to curtail the contribution of and exclude anyone acting in this manner.
- Questions, comments and responses will be minuted concisely. Members of the public who participate in this section of the agenda must specify their name and address to confirm their residency within the parish.
- If a member of the public is not prepared to disclose their credentials, the question can be forwarded in writing to the parish council.
- Questions must relate to the business of the council, be a matter for which the council has responsibility or related to the well-being of the parish.
- Parish councillors may ask any member of the parish council and any chairman of a committee of the parish council any question relating to the business of the council. Such questions may only be asked at ordinary meetings of the council.
- The chairman, or clerk, may reject a question, or a supplementary question, if it is not about a matter over which the council has responsibility, it is defamatory, frivolous, abusive or substantially the same as a question which has been put at a meeting of the council in the past 6 months requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information. Where a question has been rejected a letter will be sent to the questioner setting out the reasons for the rejection.
- If any person submits more than one question at any meeting, only their first question shall be asked and answered. If after all other questions have been asked and answered there is sufficient time available, the Chairman of the Council may ask the questioner(s) to ask their further question(s) in such order as the Chairman determines.
- The Chairman has the discretion to alter the order in which questions are asked.
- Councils and other local government bodies are required to allow any member of the public to take photographs, film and audio-record the proceedings, and report on all public meetings. While no prior permission is required to carry out this activity, it is advisable that any person wishing to film or audio-record a public meeting let their local government staff know so that all necessary arrangements can be made for the public meeting.
The Government have now issued the regulations that give local authorities greater flexibility in the conduct of meetings, including allowing members to attend remotely, and for public and press access to those meetings. These ‘Regulations’ (The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020) came into force on 4 April 2020.
Following the new regulations Burghfield Parish Council will be holding some Council meetings using Zoom online meeting platform.
Burghfield Parish Council has devised guidelines for Members of the Public regarding virtual meetings which can be found Here