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Islington Council to give public greater voice on key issues

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 October 2014

Members of the public can ask council leader Cllr Richard Watts questions on how the borough will hnadle the cuts

Members of the public can ask council leader Cllr Richard Watts questions on how the borough will hnadle the cuts

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Islington Council will allow a greater role for the public and the press at its meetings to compensate for the overwhelming Labour majority achieved at May's election, it has said.

Labour hold all but one seat on the council and concerns were raised that the party’s policies would go unchallenged with just one Green councillor in opposition.

But new measures laid out at Thursday’s full council meeting will allow residents to ask questions more freely at meetings and even set up a number of “leader’s question times” across the borough where they can directly grill council leader Richard Watts.

Other measures include an allotted section of meetings for questions from Youth Council and the reduction of the number of signatures needed on a petition to spark a debate from 8,000 to 2,000.

Cllr Watts, leader of Islington Council, said: “We received a ringing endorsement at this May’s local elections in Islington for our agenda of tackling the issues that matter to local people on jobs, housing and the cost of living.

“As a council, one of the things we must do is communicate decisions that affect over 200,000 residents, clearly and openly. That is why we are making significant changes to how the council works to let local people have their say more easily.

“These new arrangements will improve transparency and accountability, while encouraging more residents to get involved with the decisions that affect our borough.”

One of the strongest advocates of change to the council’s scrutiny process was Cllr Caroline Russell, the sole Green opposition councillor.

She said that while giving the public more of a voice at full council and making it easier to raise concerns could only be positive, there was still a long way to go.

“I obviously welcome the changes,” said Cllr Russell, “anything that makes meetings more open is to be welcomed and I particularly endorse the opportunity for the youth council to get involved.

“I think that opens up the council meetings but not the scrutiny process. We need to go quite a lot further to make that process more open and accessible.

“It’s still really hard for people to actually engage with the scrutiny process and contribute their views.”

There will be question slips and a “ballot box” provided outside the Council Chamber on the day of full council meetings for people to “post” questions that no longer need to be submitted well in advance.

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