Ward and Council Forums Way Forward(April 30, 2015)
Warminster Town Council could see a revolution in the way it listens to the voice of its townsfolk after taking a battering at its meetings all year-long culminating with a mayoral spat with a resident at the annual parish forum.
Independent councillors Paul Macdonald, Steve Dancey and Nick Dombkowski have put their heads together and are drawing up radical proposals to 'improve and liberalise' the town council.
"Members of the public are welcome to attend all meetings and there is a chance at the start to speak to us about any item on that agenda," explains Cllr. Paul Macdonald.
"The meetings open at seven in the evening but we can only listen and then reflect on their words when the agenda item comes up.
"We are not allowed to respond to those comments at any stage which causes the first feeling of resentment but we have also listened to so many complaints about what else has gone on.
"Afterward their three minutes each session any public comment is sometimes slapped down by the councillor in charge, or if they are not on the ball, then often the town clerk which I always find uncomfortable to see."
Warminster town council has standing orders that govern conduct of meetings run by the Mayor and those chosen to sit in the chair of committees.
They allowed a former councillor who knew the rules to loosely ask his question about something that was not on the agenda.
"Our idea is that there is an open forum at the beginning of each meeting of the full council until 7.30pm during which the public who live here can address the council on any local matter and receive a reply."
New Approach Added
"I know this works well as part of my former role covering local council meetings in Wiltshire and Hampshire for a local newspaper group," said Cllr. Steve Dancey.
The three councillors are then ready to take this approach to a new level.
"We will seek the support of fellow town councillors for ward forums for locals to get involved in what happens in their area and discuss what is important to them," adds Paul.
"By working together we can talk about very local issues and plan for the future together."
The town council are required by law to hold one annual parish meeting which acts as their open forum for a question and answer session.
"I have listened for years now on my cycling and walking surgeries to many comments and understandable complaints in my ward." says Paul.
"I think it is now time for three wards in the town to have an open forum three times a year after the parish meeting" says Paul.
"Their minutes are then presented annually at that meeting and their councillors say what they have done," says Paul.
"What would you like to see added to the council agenda?" adds Cllr. Nick Dombkowski.
"I was there when I saw how bad the last council forum meeting appeared to local people and quoted a proverb to the mayor afterwards."
*Annual Parish Meeting hot topic 21 April