Monday, 15 September 2014

Public Question Time

After the 'Questions from councillors' fiasco at last week's council meeting we look forward to next month's gathering when the long awaited WLGA governance report is supposed to be on the agenda. It remains to be seen if the 'panel' agrees that council governance is 'in disarray and not fit for purpose'.

I hope, of course that there will be further questions from councillors and that they will be given the democratic courtesy of a supplementary question.

Whilst on the subject of questions, given that the last time a member of the public asked a question was in 2005, it is worth remembering that as long as you either live or work, or own a business in Carmarthenshire, you can put a question to an Executive Board Member at a full council meeting.

Although 'Public Question Time' does not appear on the agenda for full council meetings, if questions are put forward, it will do, as it is required by the constitution.

This is what you have to do;

You can ask one question, and this must be delivered in writing or by email to the Chief Executive by midday, seven working days before the meeting.
The email address is or by post to; Chief Executive, County Hall, Carmarthen, SA31 1JP.

You must include your name and address and the name of the Executive Board Member to which the question is to be put. For details of the areas of responsibility for each of the Exec Board Members there is a list here.

If you have a question for the meeting on October 8th, by my reckoning it must arrive by 12 noon on Monday the 29th September.

The question needs to be worded with care as the chief executive will reject the question if he decides it;
1.  is not about a matter for which the county Council has a responsibility or which affects the County;
2.  is defamatory, frivolous or offensive;
3.  is substantially the same as a question which has been put at a meeting of the Council in the past six months; or
4.  requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information.

That's the 'official' list anyhow.

Each question will then be entered in 'a book' open to public inspection and sent to the relevant Member so they can formulate their reply. If a question is rejected, the reason for rejection must be recorded.

If you have got this far, well done - you are now able to ask your question at the meeting, by which time, all councillors will have a copy of your question.

If at all possible, it's a good idea if you can attend. The Chair will invite you to ask your question to the Member you have named. If the member is absent then you will receive a written answer. The same applies if the meeting is running short of time.

If you cannot attend, the Chair will either ask the question on your behalf and a written answer will follow, or he may decide not to ask the question at all.

If you actually manage to ask your question, and get a reply, then you can ask one supplementary (follow-up) question which must be directly related to the question or the reply, and must not breach the four 'official' points of rejection above.

There will normally be no discussion over the point you have raised in your question, but any Member can propose that it is referred to the Executive Board, or a relevant committee for further deliberation.

Suggestions have gone to the WLGA panel to simplify this process and for the council to actively encourage public questions. A straightforward page on their website would help rather than the information being buried in the depths of the constitution.

Meanwhile, fire away!


Anonymous said...


It seems to me that you are indeed a member of the public - and one with a lot of questions to boot!

caebrwyn said...

Anon 22:20
You are quite right! I was rather hoping to inspire others to give it a go.
The problem is that the four points above can be interpreted to reject just about anything and as usual, the decision lies with a single unelected official, the chief executive. There lies the real problem.

Redhead said...

Our constitution says the CEO can reject any question!