A MOTION to introduce question time at town council meetings will be put to councillors next month in a bid to make council meetings more relevant to the public.

Liberal Democrat town councillors have put forward proposals to add a 'chairman's report and question time' item to the agenda at Burnham and Highbridge Town Council meetings so councillors can ask questions about committee activities.

Minutes of Burnham and Highbridge Town Council committee meetings are no longer presented at town council meetings due to changes in procedure earlier this year.

Cllr Phil Harvey, leader of the Liberal Democrat Town Council group said:“Although this is the correct procedure, in that committee minutes are agreed at the next meeting of the committee not at council, it means that members of the public are not aware of what has happened unless they actually attended the particular committee meeting or they have looked up the draft minutes online – or it was reported by the local press or media.

“We already have reports from the chairman of the council and district and county Councillors, so the concept of the council receiving reports is not new.

"The procedure suggested is modelled on that used by Sedgemoor District Council for reports from executive members so is well known to the “dual-hatted” town councillors.

"It is hoped that it will enable the council to publicise what it is doing and to make the council meeting more meaningful for both councillors and members of the public.”

The Liberal Democrat motion will be debated at a full town council meeting on September 2 and will also feature an additional standing order, 5k, which states that the chairman of individual council committees will present a written report at each full council meeting.

The report will explain what happened at the previous committee meeting and each chairman may be questioned about any matters in their report by any member of the council.

The motion is as follows:

Motion – Improving openness, accountability and transparency.

This Council states that it wishes to place itself at the heart of the community and that to do so requires it to demonstrate openness, accountability and transparency in all that it does.

It also notes that the recent procedural change of not having Committee minutes discussed at full council militates against this in that:

Councillors who are not on a committee have no opportunity to comment on the actions taken or resolved.

Members of the public will not be aware of what the committees have done unless they were at the relevant meeting, there has been a press report, or they have read the draft minutes online.

The consequence of this is that it is difficult for both Councillors and members of the public to gain an overview of the Council’s aims, strategy and achievements.

In order to mitigate these problems the following addition to standing orders is proposed. It is based on the procedures adopted at Sedgemoor District Council for reports from Executive members.

Add an additional standing order 5k.


i. The Chairmen of Committees shall present a written report at each full council meeting in respect of the activities of that committee (assuming it has met) since the last meeting of council. The report need not be confined to the decisions taken at that meeting (or those meetings if more than one has occurred) but may cover other items if the Chairman so desires.

ii. Any member of the Council may, without prior notice, question the Committee Chairman on any matter included or referred to in his/her report or on any other matter relevant to the Committee’s work or functions.

iii. An answer to a question to a Chairman shall take the form of a direct oral answer, unless a reply cannot be given orally, in which case a written answer will be circulated later to the questioner or, if the Council so requires, to all members of the council.

iv. The maximum period allowed for questions and answers under this standing order shall be 30 minutes.