Removal of councillors’ question time causes backlash

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Councillors in Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands claim new meeting rules are ‘an attempt to undermine democracy’.

Councillors have hit out at the removal of the opportunity for them to ask questions of officials at their area committee meetings.

Speaking at a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands area committee on Wednesday June 8 Councillor Donald Kelly said: ‘I feel strongly that this is an attempt to undermine democracy.’

Councillor Douglas Philand had previously asked why the councillors’ question time had been removed from the agenda, having been a long-standing item for the committee.

Councillor Philand said that he intended to move a motion during public question time, but was told by clerk Shona Barton that his plan was not competent.

He then said: ‘On May 19, area committees were decided to remain as they were, but councillors’ question time has been removed. It seems we are going against the decision of the full council.’

Ms Barton responded: ‘Agenda setting for meetings is at the discretion of the chair, who has the final say on the agenda for each meeting.

‘I would have to disagree that we are going against the decision of the council. The decision was that area committees were to remain as is in relation to the number of meetings, not what is on the agenda.’

Councillor Kelly added: ‘Councillors’ question time has been in place for over 10 years, with many questions asked, and has been a useful tool to get answers back to constituents.

‘I fully appreciate that other area committees never had this facility, but it worked well. We should strengthen area committees rather than take powers away from councillors.’