Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council have welcomed proposals which enable members of the public to watch and speak in council proceedings when they re-start as ‘virtual meetings’ this week.
Along with other councils around the country, meetings of the city council are to resume, respecting the importance of working from home if at all possible, with councillors using video-conferencing on their computers to conduct discussions and make decisions without gathering in the same room.
Cllr Colin McGerty said:
“It’s necessary for public decision-making to continue despite the coronavirus lockdown and vital that it continues democratically. In one sense this isn’t different from elsewhere. But it was very important for us to protect the rights of members of the public to address meetings. As meetings have gone ‘virtual' this is far from happening everywhere; in particular in our own area at the County Council, where the voice of the public has been unceremoniously axed, giving them an easier ride when taking controversial decisions.
“The right for residents to ask questions and follow them up or argue in support of a petition are key parts of the council being accountable and of new issues getting raised. In the course of considering planning applications, it is important for natural justice that both sides of the issue can be put to the committee by those most affected. It’s only credible if people can do this for themselves in their own words if they choose to.
“So we are delighted that responding our arguments in cross-party discussions, Cambridge City Council looks ready to do what it can to ensure that the speaking rights people previously had, they will still have. And it’s a major plus for transparency that, as a spin-off of holding meetings remotely, all committee meetings, not just full council meetings, will be publicly live-streamed and therefore accessible to more people than they have been in the past.”