Last Wednesday I reported on the fiasco which was the “debate” in the Derby City Council meeting on the Teaching Assistant’s petition. The Mayor rudely cut short Julia Redfern’s opening speech after exactly 5 minutes, and the so-called “debate” was a 30 minute sequence of un-challeneged speeches, and un-answered questions, followed by an inspid, and pointless motion that ridiculed the petitioning process. I was intrigued whether there was a different view or explanation the Council could offer. These are the 4 questions I asked of Derby City Council through the Press Office:
1.Whilst I understand the need to manage time in a full agenda, why did the Mayor not give Julia Redfern some latitude to ensure that her case was fully heard prior to the debate. She was ‘guillotined’ at 5 minutes. She was reading from a script so she could have confirmed the time remaining and a judgement made?
DCC response : The five-minute limit is set out in the Petitions Scheme. It was communicated to the lead petitioner in advance of the meeting. It was specifically referred to in the report. It was verbally mentioned by the Mayor before the speech began. The five-minute limit was strictly applied throughout the meeting to all speakers to whom it applied.
Derby News Comment: It is clear that the Mayor was legally correct, that is not the issue. However under the Rules of Debate CP 46 – he had latitude driven, possibly by courtesy :”….Except with the consent of the Mayor, no speech may exceed five minutes”. He should have used his common sense discretion
2. Why were the questions raised by Councillors Williams, Graves and Naitta in the meeting not answered as part of the debate ?
DCC response: There is no provision in the Rules of Debate for individual questions to be answered. The matter is put, debated and voted upon.
Derby News Comment: The dictionary definition of a “debate” involves the notion of a “discussion” – there was no discussion – therefore it was NOT a debate
3. Why was there not a vote on the motion presented in the petition, as opposed to the one to ‘note the motion’?
DCC response: A motion was proposed in the report compiled by officers. It is for members to decide whether to formally propose a motion. No member formally proposed the motion in the report.
Derby News Comment : So, the officers proposed the impotent “note” motion, and didn’t think to advise the petitioner that, in the interests of open democracy, they should identify a proposer to motion the report. I’m sure many members would have come forward.
4. Does the Mayor consider that a debate actually took place, in line with the prescribed protocols? If so, please explain the basis for that view?
DCC response: The debate was entirely consistent with the laid down procedures.
Derby News Comment: The DCC Rules of Debate state – “CP57 The mover of a motion has a right to reply at the end of the debate on the motion, immediately before it is put to the vote”. This did not take place,….so the debate was inconsistent with procedures!
Derby City Council may have been correct on a pedantic technically. 250,000 citizens would all have agreed that a “debate” didn’t take place, and that those who sat in the chamber and who represented them were part of a ludicrous travesty of democracy.