Speaking at Council meetings – Frequently asked questions
Please find below frequently asked questions with regard to speaking at Council meeting. For information about how to submit your question for a Council meeting please view the Public speaking at council meetings page.
Frequently asked questions
Can I ask more than one question?
No, you can only ask one question at one meeting.Permalink
Could my question be rejected?
The Chief Executive will reject your question if:
- it is not about a matter which the council has responsibility for, or if the matter does not affect the council district;
- it is defamatory, frivolous or offensive;
- it is largely the same as a question which has been put at a council meeting in the past six months;
- it requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information;
- you are not a resident of Thanet
- it relates to an individual planning or licensing application.
We will write to you to explain why, if your question is rejected.Permalink
Will my question be published?
Every question is entered into a book open for public inspection at Thanet Gateway Plus, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1RE. It will also published on the agenda for the council meeting and recorded in the minutesPermalink
Is there a time limit?
There is a 30-minute time limit for taking and answering questions at an ordinary meeting of Council.
Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received, except that the Chairman may group together similar questions.
Any questions that cannot be asked within the time limit will be answered in writing as soon as possible after the meeting.Permalink
When and where are ordinary council meetings held?
What time should I arrive?
Please arrive by 6.45 pm so that a member of staff can brief you on what will happen.Permalink
What will happen at the meeting?
When the time comes to ask your question, the Chairman will invite you to the top table in the Council Chamber. When asking your question, you should state only the name of the Cabinet Member your question is for and read out the exact wording of the question that you submitted. The Member will then answer your question, but you will not be able to ask a supplementary question.Permalink
What if the Cabinet Member my question is addressed to is not present at the meeting?
Your question will be answered by the Leader of Council another Member nominated by the Leader, unless it is inappropriate for the Leader or another Member to answer, in which case you will be sent a written answer.Permalink
What if I cannot attend the meeting to ask my question?
How do I speak at a Planning Committee meeting?
To enable you to play an active part in the planning process, Thanet Residents are able to speak at meetings of the Planning Committee on any schedule applications, which are to be considered.
For the opportunity to speak, you must have submitted a written representation on a planning application, to the Planning Applications Section by the close of the consultation period applicable to that application.
Not all planning applications go to the Planning Committee for decision, some are decided by Planning Officers under delegated powers. If an application is to be decided by Planning Committee, the Council will write to you to invite you to book a slot to speak. Only upon receipt of that letter may you make contact with the Committee Clerk who will be happy to book you in and offer you any help or advice that you may require.
One person is permitted to speak ‘for’ the application and one ‘against’ (residents of Thanet only) as well as one Parish Council representative (where appropriate).
Slots are allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Public speaking rules
Note: These rules do not override Council Procedure Rule 20(1).
Who can make a speech to the Committee?1. Those who have written either in support of or against a planning application which is to be considered by Planning Committee, will have the opportunity to speak on that application, subject to the following criteria:-
a. Applicant/Agent/those in favour of approval–
for applications recommended for approval, the ability to speak will only be granted if there is a member of the public speaking in favour of refusal (to ensure a balance of views is put to the Committee) (Applicants/agents will take priority in this instance).
For applications recommended for refusal, only the applicant or their agent will be permitted to speak in favour of approval.
b. Objector (only if they are a resident of Thanet); for applications recommended for refusal, the ability to speak will only be granted if there is a member of the public speaking in favour of approval (to ensure a balance of views is put to the Committee)
c. Town Council/Parish Council representatives
(TDC Planning Committee Members will not be permitted to take this slot); and
d. Ward Councillors– Council Procedure Rule 20(1).
Public speaking will be limited as follows:-a. Only one slot is available for those in favour, for those against and the Parish/Town Council representative. Speaking slots are offered on a first come, first served basis.
b. Those who have missed the opportunity to speak will be given the details of their Ward Councillor(s). The Committee Clerk will forward the contact details of members of the public who are speaking on applications to the relevant Ward Councillor(s) for their information/assistance.
The Ward Councillor(s) can either direct those who were unsuccessful to the appointed speaker to enable affected persons to make a co-ordinated response or the Councillor can choose to appear before the Committee themselves under Council Procedure Rule 20(1).
Members of the public will be informed that their contact details may be given out if more than one person wishes to speak. It will then be their decision if they wish to proceed.
c. If the applicant/agent wishes to speak, he or she will be given preference over other speakers in favour of approval.
d. If an application is recommended for approval there will be no speakers in favour unless there is a speaker against the application (to ensure a balance of views is put to the Committee).
e. If an application is recommended for refusal there will be no speakers against unless there is a speaker in favour of the application (to ensure a balance of views is put to the Committee).
f. Where a site inspection is recommended by the officers, no public speaking will take place until the following Planning Committee where the final decision will be made.
g. If Members decide to overturn an officers recommendation of a site visit, the application will be deferred and brought back to the next Committee to enable public speaking to take place.
h. If a site inspection is approved by Members after public speaking has taken place (contrary to officer’s recommendation), no public speaking will be permitted at the following Committee where the final decision will be made. (members of the public will still have the opportunity to make verbal representations at the site inspection).
i. In the case of the submission of petitions, the right to speak will only be granted if it is clear that there is a head petitioner. Usually this will require the submission of an accompanying letter so there is clearly an individual to contact to offer the opportunity of public speaking to.
j. No statement will exceed three minutes, at the conclusion of their statement the speaker shall return to the public gallery immediately. Speakers will not be permitted to table any information or present photographs during the course of the meeting (they will be advised of how to send additional information to Members of the Committee before the meeting is held).
k. Members may not ask questions of, or enter into debate with the speaker during the course of the meeting (members of the public will receive an advice note to ensure that they are aware of how best to use their time and how to ensure Members have a clear picture of the situation).
l. A member of the public will be given priority to speak on one application only. Should they wish to speak on more than one application they will be placed on a reserve list until such time as the deadline for requests has passed. Provided no other members of the public have indicated a wish to speak they may take the slot.
m. Speakers will not be permitted to ask questions of or criticise Members or officers of the Council whilst making their speech (the advice leaflet will contain a reference to the laws of slander to ensure speakers are aware that they must not make inappropriate statements about any particular individual).
Registering to speak
2. Those that have made written representations on a planning application will have the right to make a speech at Planning Committee, in addition, the applicant/agent will have the opportunity to speak in accordance with the notes above.
3. In order to have a right to speak, those making written representations must have done so by noon on the Friday before the agenda is despatched. Invitations will be mailed to those that have made representations by no later than 5:00pm on the Tuesday, one week prior to the Committee meeting.
4. On receipt of that letter, those wishing to speak must telephone the Committee Clerk and register their request by no later than noon on the Monday before the Planning Committee. Once the closing date and time for registering a wish to speak has passed, no additions will be permitted to the list of speakers.
5. On the evening of the meeting, speakers who have registered must report to the Committee Clerk no later than 6:40pm in the Committee Room. A designated seating area will be provided for those wishing to speak and the Clerk will provide the speakers with a final explanation of procedure and will answer any questions they may have at 6:45pm (a full explanation of procedure will be provided to assist members of the public in advance of the meeting).
The conduct of the Planning Meetings
6. Public speaking will be limited to the schedule of Planning Applications only and resultant site inspections.
7. The meeting will commence with site inspections from the previous meeting. Members of the public, Parish/Town Council will speak first (only if site inspection arose from officer recommendation), the Ward Councillor (if present) and then debate will take place as usual. This will continue until all of the site inspections have been considered.
8. Members will be provided with Members’ notes (similar to those used at meetings of the full Council) to illustrate who will be speaking on site inspections and which schedule items have been reserved for public speaking.
9. Before the schedule is considered, Chairman will ask Members to strike through the applications which have been reserved for public speaking in their agenda (for clarity).
10. The Committee will take all of the items on the schedule which have been reserved for public speaking first.
11. Reserved items (for public speaking) will be taken in order, unless the Committee agrees otherwise and speakers will be invited to make their statements in turn.
12. The order of speaking for both site inspections and schedule items will be as follows:
i. Applicant/Agent/ those in favour;
iii. Town Parish Council (if appropriate); and
iv. Ward Councillor(s) – Council Procedure Rule 20(1)
13. Speakers can read from prepared statements, but cannot distribute or display material. Once the speaker has concluded their statement (or the bell has rung) they will be asked to return to the public gallery. Members may not ask questions of, or enter into debate with the speaker during the course of the meeting.
14. Any Members attending the Committee meeting under Council Procedure Rule 20(1) will be invited to speak when the public speaking, if any, has concluded. The Committee will then debate the application based on the seconded proposal in the usual way.
15. The Committee will only consider the application on planning grounds and will not take into consideration non-planning issues. Members of the public can seek advice from the Planning Department on what is considered a planning ground, this will prevent confusion and will assist them in making best use of their three minute time slot.
16. The Chairman will have the discretion to halt the public should they begin to stray from planning grounds or make inappropriate or offensive statements
17. Once this process is complete, public speaking has concluded for the meeting.
18. The Chairman will then refer the Committee back to the schedule to run through the remainder of the schedule items (if any). He will call upon the Planning Officer to read through those items remaining on the schedule and if a Member wishes to reserve an item they should call out as he reads (usual practice). If all of the applications on the schedule were reserved for public speaking the Chairman will move on to the next item which is usually Enforcement of Planning Control and the remainder of the agenda will be take
How can I speak at the Overview and Scrutiny Panel?
Thanet Council now allows public speaking at meetings of its Overview and Scrutiny Panel. This allows members of the public to share their views on items that are due to be discussed by the Panel.
Members of the public are allowed a maximum of three minutes to make their points and there will be a maximum of two people allowed to speak on each agenda item. Requests to speak will be accepted both in advance of and at the start of these meetings.
- The agendas for future Overview and Scrutiny Panel meetings here.
- A full copy of the public speaking scheme can be found in Part 5 of the Council’s constitution
Applications to speak should be made in writing and provide the following information:
Name, Contact Telephone/Mobile Number;
A brief outline of your statement;
Please send your statement to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to:
Thanet District Council
P.O. Box 9
If you have any queries please contact Democratic Services on 01843 577186Permalink