Latest council cuts - less time for talking

Cllr David Baird was critical of the changes.
Cllr David Baird was critical of the changes.

Cash-strapped North Lanarkshire Council has announced its latest cutback - in the length of time councillors can speak in the chamber.

The maximum for a speech is going down from five minutes to three, sparking claims that the ruling Labour group is ‘butchering’ democracy.

It’s one of several changes voted through at a full council meeting after a task group reviewed the authority’s standing orders.

Another change means deputations will no longer be allowed to address council meetings, apart from the planning committee. And councillors are being restricted to two written questions at the full council meeting.

Mossend and Holytown councillor David Baird, a member of the SNP group said: “These proposals are designed to hand more power to the Labour group. They make it harder for opposition councillors to hold the ruling group to account”

Councillor Tom Johnston, deputy SNP group leader, added: “Labour have gradually butchered democracy in the council as they saw the SNP group growing steadily in size at each election.

“The full council now meets only four times a year, plus a budget meeting. In effect, it meets for about 16 hours maximum each year. It’s ridiculous to call this local democracy.”

However, Councillor Tom Curley, who chaired the task group, defended the changes.

He said: “Very few councillors go over three minutes anyway. If you can’t make a point in that time you shouldn’t be making it at all. As for deputations, having people come to speak at council meetings isn’t the right way to do it.

“During the furore over the proposed Our Lady’s-Taylor schools merger, people protested to their councillors at surgeries and their views were taken on board. That’s what councillors are there for.”