Public Open Forum

OPEN FORUM

In 2001 Bourne Town Council (BTC) introduced a Public Open Forum prior to each Full Meeting of the Council offering the general public the opportunity to attend and ask questions of the elected representatives on BTC.  In the last 12 years many people have availed themselves of this opportunity to raise issues and express concerns about matters relevant to the Parish or Council.

BTC now believes it appropriate to re-state the objectives and up-date the procedures of the Forum (in accordance with the New Guidance about Public Participation by the National Association for local Councils dated October 2013) in order to make it more 'public friendly' and to enhance the interaction between members of the public and council members, and to better understand or address issues that are raised.

The Forum takes place at 19.00hrs before each Full Council meeting, for a maximum of half an hour.

Notices publishing the dates and location of the meetings are published in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972 and will include the notice board, local papers and the council’s website (www.bournetowncouncil.org.uk) whenever possible.

The re-stated objectives, which seek to encourage participation of those with an interest in the Parish (Cawthorpe, Dyke, Twenty and Bourne) are summarised as follows:

1)   To give members of the public with a legitimate interest in the Parish the opportunity to raise issues with members of the Town Council.
2)   To ensure that the Forum is conducted in a 'people friendly' environment that will encourage attendance and make people comfortable when raising concerns and matters of interest.
3)   To ensure that any matter raised is afforded clarity and understanding to those present and given appropriate consideration.
4)   Where possible, to provide answers to questions at the meeting.
5)   Where an immediate answer is not possible or practical, to refer the matter to the appropriate committee of the council or outside body for due consideration.  In such circumstances, the council undertakes to provide a reply either at a subsequent meeting or in writing.

Procedures

Clearly the Forum must be conducted in a structured form.  The Chairman of the Forum (normally the Mayor or his Deputy) will be the sole arbiter of the Forum and of the use of the time available.

Any member of the electorate of Bourne Town Council, resident in the Bourne electoral area or person with a legitimate business interest in the Parish may address the Forum.  Where appropriate the Chairman will satisfy himself that a person wishing to speak has a right to do so.

Typically, the Chairman will allocate the time available equitably between those wishing to raise a question with a maximum of 10 minutes for any single issue. (There may be occasions when public interest is such that the Chairman deems it appropriate to allocate an issue more time . Such a decision will be entirely at the discretion of the Chairman).

Members of the public will be afforded the opportunity to make brief background comments and ask appropriate questions addressing just one issue at a time. Normally members of the public will be confined to 2 issues at any Forum unless time becomes available and the Chairman allows another issue to be raised.

The Chairman may then comment upon or seek to answer the question. He may also invite other members of the Town Council or the Town Clerk to ask questions of clarification or to provide information that will inform the meeting further.  The Chairman may seek further information from the member of the public who raised the issue and when he believes that the matter has had sufficient attention or when the allocated time has expired he will declare the matter closed.  Should the issue require further consideration, the Chairman will refer it to the appropriate Council committee or outside body.

If the consideration of any issue is time expired and time subsequently becomes available later in the Forum after all other matters have been dealt with, the Chairman may re-open the matter if he believes that more time might better inform the Meeting.

In the Conduct of the Forum the ruling of the Chairman is final.

There may be questions that the Chairman declines to accept.  These may be matters within the various categories of what are known as 'Exempt Information'. These are contained in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. Examples of these are:

· Information relating to any individual
· Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual.
· Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
· Information relating to any action taken or to be taken in connection with the prevention, investigation or prosecution of crime.

The Chairman may also rule out of order, questions he considers improper, irrelevant or objectionable.  If any member of the public interrupts the proceedings the Chairman may initially warn him, and should inappropriate behaviour continue request his removal from the meeting.

(Within this document the chairman and member of the public are referred to as ‘he’, regardless of gender)                       
Jan 2014 (amended Oct. 14)