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Constitutional amendment that moved council meetings to working hours criticised

A decision which moved full council meetings at North Northamptonshire Council from 7pm to 2pm has been criticised as “anti-democratic” by detractors.

The full council voted for the amendment to the newly formed unitary authority’s constitution late last month.

Conservative leader of the council, Cllr Jason Smithers, put the amendment forward, which reads: "Full Council Meetings will usually commence at 2:00 pm at a place to be agreed by the council. The meeting to determine the Council Budget (usually held in February each year) will normally commence at 10:00 am. The Chair, or the Council, can agree to hold a meeting at a different place or time."

Labour councillor, Simon Rielly, tweeted: "Cuts to services, homelessness, petrol shortages, Universal Credit cuts, affordable housing, knife crime! Real problematic current issues. So what did we discuss at full council last night? How to silence the voter, Tories voted to move full council meetings to 2pm in the working day! Shameful."

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The BBC reported that Conservative backbencher Scott Brown viewed the move as anti-democratic. The councillor told a BBC reporter that: "At the click of a finger with this motion, not based on any facts or data, we have done away with the opportunity of 150,000 people going to the meetings."

According to a document from the full council meeting that considered the change, the cabinet predicted that the business of some meetings would still take several hours to determine and felt that an earlier start time would provide more flexibility for debate.

In particular, concerns were raised in the proposals that the 'Budget Full Council meeting' to be held in February "may be particularly lengthy".

The document recognised that meeting in the daytime might conflict with council members' working or caring commitments. It added that a "change to daytime meetings may assist or hinder attendance".

The proposal suggested that live-streaming the meetings and posting them to YouTube may lessen the impact on attendance of the general public at meetings.

Adam Carey

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