War of words over ques­tions to coun­cil

Sunderland Echo - - News - By Kevin Clark kevin.clark@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @kevinclarkjp

A war of words has bro­ken out be­tween ri­val po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Sun­der­land over the is­sue of vot­ers be­ing able to ask coun­cil­lors ques­tions face-to-face at civic meet­ings.

A re­port go­ing to the Cab­i­net meet­ing on Novem­ber 22 rec­om­mends that an amend­ment be made to the Coun­cil’s Pro­ce­dure rules so that mem­bers of the pub­lic are able to ask ques­tions at coun­cil meet­ings.

It comes af­ter Lib­eral Demo­crat coun­cil­lors Stephen O’Brien and Niall Hod­son put a mo­tion to the full coun­cil meet­ing last month, which passed unan­i­mously.

Lib­eral Demo­crat Group leader Coun Hod­son wel­comed the move and said Lib­eral Democrats in the city had been cam­paign­ing for decades to give the pub­lic the abil­ity to chal­lenge the coun­cil di­rectly.

But Labour coun­cil­points lor and Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Mel Sped­ing ac­cused the pair of be­ing “eco­nom­i­cal with the truth” and said such an op­por­tu­nity al­ready ex­isted.

He said: “It was the ma­jor­ity Labour Group who had to amend their No­tice of Mo­tion as this fickle pair of LibDems didn’t know that the pub­lic al­ready have the op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions of coun­cil­lors at meet­ings of Sun­der­land City Coun­cil.

“We the Labour Group, by a com­mon sense amend­ment, have now clar­i­fied on the pub­lic ask­ing ques­tions at these meet­ings.

Coun Hod­son said: “I think it’s only right that res­i­dents should be able to ask ques­tions of the coun­cil in pub­lic – af­ter all, coun­cil­lors ought to be ac­count­able to the peo­ple they serve.”

Un­der the pro­pos­als, a pe­riod of 15 min­utes will be al­lowed at full coun­cil meet­ings for ques­tions sub­mit­ted by peo­ple who live, work or study in the city, to be ad­dressed to the Leader or other mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive.

Sun­der­land’s Civic Cen­tre and, in­set, Labour coun­cil­lor and Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Mel Sped­ing.

Lib­eral Demo­crat coun­cil­lor Niall Hod­son.

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