MEMBERS of the public will once again be able to ask live questions and participate in Reading Council Committee meetings from later this month.
Public speaking at Committee meetings had previously been suspended following the Covid 19 outbreak in March. Committee meetings have been screened live online using Microsoft Teams Live Event software since then, with public speaking replaced by written questions or statements for an interim period.
Reading Borough Council is now pleased to be able to re-introduce public speaking using a teleconferencing facility, which will allow members of the public to ‘dial in’ by phone to the online meeting using a unique code and to put their questions or submissions to Councillors.
Public speaking is being introduced in line with the previous arrangements, which are to present petitions and questions to Committees, and speaking by objectors and applicants/agents on planning applications.
The new approach will initially be re-introduced at the Policy Committee meeting scheduled for 22nd June and at Planning Applications Committee on 24th June. It will then be extended to main Committee meetings, pending changes in Government guidelines which would allow face to face public meetings to resume.
Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock said:
“I’m really pleased to see the imminent re introduction of public speaking at meetings later this month, reinstating an important layer of democratic challenge and scrutiny to proceedings, at what remains a difficult time to do business.
“There have been three live online Policy Committees and two Planning Committees since the outbreak began, where written questions or statements have had to be submitted instead. While that has worked well, I am sure all Councillors will agree there is no substitute for live discussion with the public.
“I look forward to the cut and thrust of public debate returning with even greater vigour and verve.”
A full calendar of up and coming meetings can be found here https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/mgCalendarMonthView.aspx?GL=1&bcr=1. Any member of the public wishing to submit a petition or question to a Committee meeting should contact the meeting administrator via the relevant meeting page on the website.
In terms of Planning Committee, residents who commented on a planning application will receive information directly from the Council’s Planning team on how to register to speak at the relevant Planning Committee. Applicants and agents will also be invited to speak on planning applications if there are public speakers.
Deadlines for submission of petitions and questions in writing remain as per ordinary meetings, which is 6pm four clear working days before the meeting itself.