Council delays meeting on boosting democracy

PUBLISHED: 16:06 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:06 11 February 2019

Portishead High Street.

Portishead High Street.

Archant

A meeting to ‘reform and energise’ democracy in Portishead will not be held for at least another three months after councillors voted to put the issue on the backburner.

Portishead Town Council has deferred dealing with a list of issues raised by the public until after the local elections in May.

A residents’ meeting was held in November, when concerns over the relationship between Portishead Town Council and the public were raised.

One speaker at the meeting compared the town to a ‘medieval serfdom’, as a motion was agreed by the hundreds in attendance to call on the council to host a ‘democracy event’, with hopes of addressing a range of problems.

The issues raised included poor communication, a shortage of public consultation and a lack of a voice at council meetings.

The proposals were discussed at the town council’s meeting at the end of January, but members voted against hosting the event before the election.

Cllr Jean Lord said: “I sympathise with some of the reasons this has been called for, but the timing is very unfortunate.

“It is just before a council election and we have to be very careful to be even handed and not provide an opportunity for some people to have a very high profile unless we also do it for all other possible candidates.

“At a different time, we might be able to do it but doing it a few months before an election would be very wrong in the format we are being asked for.”

Cllr Arthur Terry added: “My inclination is it should be placed on the agenda of the first meeting of the new council.

“That may not go down very well, but I do believe that’s the best way to deal with this. The new council can take it forward in whatever way it wants to.”

Another issue raised at the November meeting was the use of Section 106 (S106) money – which is cash paid to North Somerset Council by housing developers – in the town.

Cllr Peter Burden described the issue as a ‘farce’, as the public were denied access to a recent meeting where the use of S106 money was explained.

He said: “If the public had been allowed into that meeting, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Chairman Peter Mitchell resolved a North Somerset officer will be invited to an upcoming town council meeting to deliver a talk on S106 spending.

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