Constitutional changes given green light to improve local democracy and resident engagement
Kingston Council has given the green light to plans for a reformed ‘Question Time’ approach at future Full Council meetings.
The changes come as part of the council’s drive to ensure the voices of residents and businesses are influencing and shaping decisions much earlier and throughout the process rather than focusing activity on meetings at the end of the process.
The changes were approved at Full Council on 15 October with immediate effect. The new 30-minute ‘Question Time’ enables anyone to ask questions at Full Council meetings, while people can also give views and raise issues at the four Neighbourhood Committees and air queries at individual Strategic Committee meetings.
The council is introducing new ways in which local people can engage and give their views throughout the decision-making process. This includes the borough’s first ever Citizens Assembly, which will take place over the weekends of 9-10 November and 30 November - 1 December and will look at air quality, a range of workshops, events and forums as well as online opportunities. The council has also adopted a new Community Engagement Framework, which outlines an approach to how the council will work with the local community in the future.
Kingston’s community call-in process to review important decisions remains in place. This allows residents to halt the implementation of certain Committee decisions while they are reviewed. As part of the constitutional reform, the number of signatures required for the call-in of Committee decisions and for the debate of public petitions at meetings of the Full Council has increased. These measures bring Kingston in line with other local authority petition schemes and reflects the population growth in the borough and the improvements in digital technology which allow for more signatures to be collected. At the same time new rights have been introduced which will enable the debate of large petitions at the Council’s Strategic and local Neighbourhood Committees.
Cllr Andreas Kirsch, Kingston Council’s Portfolio Holder for Constitutional Issues, said:
“We are consistent and ambitious about our desire to work with residents, businesses and other people in all aspects of our decision-making, and these changes are an important part of this.
“We want to reach out to more people across the borough than ever before and involve them earlier in the process, as well as providing more opportunities for engagement and feedback. The revised constitution will enable more people to be involved at a local level and in different ways.
“As a result, we will get a more clear and accurate representation of the opinions of what matters to our residents by putting them at the heart of all decision-making.
“We have seen increased community engagement throughout the borough over the last 6 months. We have had 32,400 visits to our Let’s Talk website and 4,800 have provided their views to us online. Alongside this, over 3,000 people have talked to us on a whole host of topics at community events.”
Notes to Editors:
Councillors have been reviewing the Constitution annually to ensure compliance with legislative provisions and best practice.
A review in 2018/19 agreed revised officer and elected member responsibilities, strengthened the role of Neighbourhood Committees and the governance of commissioning arrangements.
The review has been informed by an analysis of best practice, consultation with key stakeholders and the recommendations of the council’s LGA Peer Review in January 2019.