Row over Question Time changes at North Ayrshire Council as independent slams ‘undemocratic’ new rules

A furious councilor has hit out at the new North Ayrshire administration for restricting questions on major issues at showpiece meetings.

North Coast member Ian Murdoch voted against “undemocratic” proposals to introduce a strict 45-minute Question Time session at the end of the full council with the questions submitted in advance with no pre-amble.

The decision was made at the opening meeting of the new council on Tuesday, May 17.

Cllr Murdoch said: “I put in an amendment to maintain the status quo from the last five years but lost the vote by 29-2.

“No pre-amble or possibly no supplementary question, a restrictive set time and drawing lots for questions would result in not being able to represent our constituents in an open and unrestricted way. The independents would be at the back of the queue.

“The proposed changes are not democratic, are restrictive and will not allow local members to challenge issues which are vitally important to our constituents.

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“All 33 councillors were elected in the same way, not by a party, so in my opinion the constituents should come first at all times.”

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Cllr Murdoch, who asked more than 70 questions in the last administration, added: “Asking questions at full council is the most open and transparent way of representing our constituents as they are able to see the councilor they voted for representing them in an open forum .

“The changes will make it very difficult for independents in particular to openly ask about or challenge anything. This is not a race and we should not be sprinting through the agenda.”

In response, a North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “The revisions to standing orders were approved 29-2 in a vote by elected members at a meeting of the full council on May 18, 2022.

“The changes have been adopted to ensure good time management and to enable council meetings to run as efficiently as possible.

“Councillors will be able to continue to ask vital questions to their constituents and will receive answers to these questions.

“It’s also important to note that all groups will be treated equitably with the order of questions determined by drawing lots.

“Questions will be divided into four lots comprising main opposition, second opposition, independent members and the administration, with questions being drawn at random from each lot in turn until all questions have been ordered on the agenda.

“In the event that time does not allow all questions on the agenda to be dealt with during a full council meeting, the written question and answer will be included as part of the minute and a written supplementary question of clarification can be submitted and responded to. after the meeting.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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