Council leader clarifies public question rules after protesters disrupt meeting

Wednesday 10th July 2019 14:02 BST

The leader of Cornwall Council is reminding residents of the rules for submitting questions to its meetings after Tuesday’s assembly in Truro was forced to adjourn when protesters in the public gallery refused to stop shouting.

Earlier in the morning protesters against overdevelopment in the Duchy gathered outside County Hall, where they met with council leader Julian German and portfolio holder for Homes Andrew Mitchell.

Later, a few minutes into the full council meeting, chairwoman Hilary Frank declared there were no public questions registered.

Under council meeting procedures, questions from the public need to be submitted the previous week, but protesters in the gallery started to heckle and shout, demanding to have their voices heard.

Both Ms Frank and Cllr German tried to explain the questions procedure, but the shouting continued until Ms Frank was forced to adjourn the meeting.

After security staff and Cllr German asked people to quieten down or leave, protesters eventually left the gallery and the meeting resumed.

Today, Cllr German is clarifying the public questions procedure. He said: “Listening to people is one of the most important parts of our role as councillors.

“The council belongs to everyone in Cornwall, and it is vital we work in their interests, which we cannot do if we are not willing to listen to them.

“However, to make sure our meetings run smoothly and legally, we have to follow the protocol set out in our constitution, which meant we were unable to take questions on the day as they must be submitted ahead of the meeting to give us time to make sure we can provide a full answer.

“I spoke to those members of the public who had taken the time to come along to our meeting to express their views and assured them they will have the chance to submit questions for future meetings.

“Since being elected leader, I have stressed the need for more communication with our residents.”

On the agenda at the meeting at Lys Kernow was the capital programme outturn report for 2018/19, which looks at the investments made across Cornwall during the past year.

It includes £92 million of highways improvements and transport links, £65 million on new and improved housing, and £31 million on projects to support economic growth, and was supported by the council.

The next phase of the Superfast Cornwall project was also discussed.  Superfast 3 aims to bring high-speed internet access to some of the remotest areas of Cornwall, promoting new ways of working, helping bring fresh employment opportunities and improve social inclusion in those communities. 

The meeting also heard how the continued roll out of the superfast programme has environmental benefits, through allowing people to work from home, and reduce the need for commuting and further travel.  It was also approved by councillors.

A report from the Independent Remuneration Panel, which recommended a number of changes to the remittance paid for committee chairmen and vice-chairmen was discussed and approved by the council.

Two motions were also debated by the chamber, with the first calling for the council to work to increase menopause awareness among its staff and across the wider community.

The second motion called on the council to tackle the practice of ‘brandjacking’ by writing to the Government to demand a review into the issue, where large international booking companies are taking commission from small hotels and guest houses across Cornwall.

The council supported both motions unanimously.

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