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Council backs down on plans to ban supplementary questions

The council has backed down on its plans to ban supplementary questions at meetings following a public outcry.

Concerns were raised in a letter to the Advertiser last week (April 11) by Andrew Hill – a Boyn Hill candidate for The Borough First in the local elections – querying the council’s decision to ban members of the public asking a second related question at meetings from May.

“This was literally the only opportunity that residents had to ask spontaneous questions in public meetings, and get unscripted answers from their elected representatives,” the letter read.

“For those who are worried by this ban, and feel it is alien to your own hard-won values, then I hope you will talk to your friends, families and neighbours about it urgently. Word of mouth is the one form of free speech that they cannot yet ban.”

A petition, spearheaded by Maidenhead Labour chairman David Knowles-Leak, received more than 300 signatures objecting to the council’s plans.

On Monday, the council updated the petition to say that the lead member for HR, legal and IT, Cllr Lisa Targowska (Con, Belmont) will recommend at full council on April 23 that the constitution be amended to reinstate the right of the public to ask supplementary questions.

A full report including the recommendation will then be brought to the council meeting in June by the next lead member.

In a letter to the editor this week (see Viewpoint), Cllr Targowska said that the decision ‘was not proposed to hinder free speech’ and that it was made because councillors often do not have the resources to answer a second on-the-spot question.

“I’ve had a couple of residents query the change so I will ensure that the ability to ask supplementary questions is maintained going forward,” the letter adds.

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