How to ask questions at Council meetings

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Cornwall Council public participation scheme

Cornwall Council enables those that live and work in Cornwall to have a say in their work.  The name of the scheme is 'public participation'.  It is open to any person who lives or works in Cornwall.  Questions are not accepted from organisations.

The scheme applies to the following meetings:

  • Full Council
  • Cabinet
  • Overview and Scrutiny Committees
  • Health and Wellbeing Board (questions limited to agenda items only)

The following Committees have their own schemes.  

To submit a question to a meeting

  1. You must submit your question in writing.
  2. You must submit notice of your question by 12 noon two clear working days before the meeting. If the meeting is on a Tuesday you must submit your question before 12 noon on the Thursday prior. Bank holidays do not count as a working day.
  3. You must address your question to the Monitoring Officer through Democratic Services.
  4. Your notice must include the following information :
    1. title and name
    2. Postal town
    3. Contact details
    4. The name of the  meeting at which you want to ask your question
  5. As well as giving notice your question must meet the parameters of the scheme.

Submit your question to a meeting

The parameters of the scheme

  1. The time allowed for public questions at Full meetings of Cornwall Council is 30 minutes. For all other meetings it is 15 minutes. The Chairman may use their discretion to increase the time allowed.
  2. Public Questions are not allowed at the Council's Annual General Meeting in May.
  3. If you are asking a question at an extraordinary meeting the question must relate to an item on the agenda.
  4. You may only ask one question per meeting and not more than two questions in a financial year.
  5. Questions must not be more than 50 words long.
  6. The Monitoring Officer will reject your question if:
    1. It is not about a matter for which the Council has a responsibility, or which affects Cornwall; or
    2. It is defamatory, frivolous or offensive; or
    3. It is substantially the same as a question posed to a meeting of the Council in the past six months; or
    4. It requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information.
    (The Monitoring Officer will give the reason(s) for the rejection)
  7. The Committee answers questions in the order it receives them. The Chairman may group together similar questions.
  8. You can only ask your question as set out in your notice. You cannot change the question or give further information.
  9. If you attend the meeting to put your question in person you can ask a supplementary question. The supplementary question must relate to your original question or the reply.
  10. If you do not attend the meeting in person the Chairman may:
    1. ask the question on your behalf; or
    2. ask for a written reply for you; or
    3. decide not to deal with your question
    (Written responses are sent in writing following the meeting and included in the minutes)
  11. If time runs out before your turn to ask your question you will have an answer in writing. This will be within seven working days of the meeting. The Members of the Committee will also receive the answer and it will be included in the minutes of the meeting.
  12. There is no discussion on public questions, unless the Chairman decides otherwise
  13. A Member of the meeting may move referral of a matter raised by a question to Cabinet or the appropriate Committee. Once seconded the vote for referral happens without further discussion.
  14. The Chairman's ruling on procedures for responding to questions is final.

Conduct

  1. When submitting a question the public must respect the laws governing defamation, libel and slander.
  2. The Chairman has the right to stop the public from speaking if they consider the question or a supplementary question to be defamatory, improper or outside the responsibilities of the Council.
  3. The Chairman will ask that disruptive individuals leave the meeting. If the disruption continues the Chairman may adjourn the meeting.
  4. The Chairman’s decision on whether a disruption or disturbance is being caused is final.

Other public participation

Appeals

Where a member of the public makes an appeal of a decision by the Council they can attend the meeting to consider their appeal.  Democratic Services will contact them in advance of their appeal to explain the procedure.  The Appeals Committee comprises elected Members.

Overview and Scrutiny Inquiries. 

The Overview and Scrutiny Committees may convene inquiry groups.  These are small groups of Members who explore an issue in detail.  The inquiry may invite submissions from members of the public to help inform their work. Information on current inquiries is available by contacting democraticsupport@cornwall.gov.uk .

Elected Members may ask questions at meetings on behalf of the public.

Reporting and filming of meetings

  1. The Council allows the use of social media, filming, videoing, photographing and recording of Council and other meetings open to the public. Those undertaking the recording must meet the Full List of Agreed Principles. They must not disrupt the meeting.
  2. Some meetings of the Council are available to view on the internet. We will tell members of the public asking questions this in advance of the meeting.

Data Protection

  1. By submitting a question for a meeting, you are giving your consent that your name, address and postal town appears in the minutes. This is under the General Data Protection Regulation. 
  2. All other information you provide will only be shared with Democratic Services staff dealing with the Committee. Following the approval of the minutes, any additional information other than your name and postal address will be destroyed. 

Petitions

The Council welcomes all petitions. All petitions will be considered under the Council's Petition Scheme.

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