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'A complete and utter farce' - Council's lengthy debate... over length of debates

PUBLISHED: 12:43 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:43 13 September 2019

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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A move to curtail the amount of time councillors debate - which resulted in a lengthy debate and no definitive conclusion - has been described as "a complete and utter farce".

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Picture: Ella WilkinsonCouncillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

On Thursday evening, a series of proposed changes to how Great Yarmouth Borough Council's meetings operated were brought before its members - each designed to make meetings more concise.

Proposed by the council's monitoring officer, the changes looked to encourage councillors to get to the point by limiting the length of debates and number of speakers for motions - with the officer arguing previous debates had "not proceeded efficiently".

The proposals were discussed at length at the meeting before narrowly being voted through by Conservative members.

However, this vote was then quashed, after it was raised that the council's constitution states a working group must have been consulted on any rule changes before they are debated - which had not happened.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group at GYBC, said: "It was a complete and utter farce if you ask me - although it was a good debate.

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"From my point of view, the proposals themselves were undemocratic. Motions can take time to debate and if they are rushed or limited that flies in the face of the democratic process."

Carl Smith, leader of the Conservative-led council, however, said he supported to proposed changes.

He said: "The whole thing does seem a bit odd to me - 39 councillors debated it yesterday. However, if the constitution says it has to go through the working group first, that's what it says, even if it does seem a bit of a roundabout way of doing it.

"The idea was solely to make sure more important council business - which is still democracy - is taken care of before motions are debated.

"Motions are still important and I support democracy and debate, but I do feel we're all capable of having a debate within 20 minutes."

The changes would see motions placed at the end of council agendas, a 20-minute time limit placed on any debate and the number of speakers allowed for and against them to be limited to three.

The proposals must now go back to a working group before coming back to the full council.

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