Changes on the cards for Ripon City Council meetings

The changes were discussed at last night's full Ripon City Council meeting.
The changes were discussed at last night's full Ripon City Council meeting.

The Mayor of Ripon announced last night that the city council will look into exploring new ways for residents to ask questions at meetings and hold their elected representatives to account.

Currently, members of the public can only ask questions, seek clarification or make representations to city councillors at the start of a council meeting after apologies for absence have been received.

The questions can be about any item listed on the agenda for the meeting, but residents have previously expressed their frustration at only being able to ask questions before they have heard the details of what the discussion is about, and what the views of councillors on the matter are.

Councillors mentioned the possibility of introducing a system similar to Harrogate Borough Council's, where residents can submit questions before the meeting to be read out.

In recent weeks the 'Gazette has been contacted by readers complaining about the format of meetings, and how often Ripon City Council goes into private session. The proposal to look into changing the way questions are asked was welcomed by those attending last night.

The Mayor, Coun Pauline McHardy, and the city council clerk, Paula Benson, explained that a change in format will be looked into, but the wording, rules and regulations governing the agenda style and structure for council meetings could make it more difficult to change.

Reader John Edmonstone has previously told the 'Gazette that "the acoustics are awful in Ripon City Council meetings."

He also said: "It's difficult for the public to hear what's going on - especially when most of the time the councillors have got their backs turned to the public."

At last night's meeting councillors repositioned themselves to be closer to the public, and at the end of the meeting those attending were asked by council if they could hear any better.

The response was that it is an improvement, but some councillors still had their backs turned to them and it would be better with microphones.

Coun Mike Chambers was asked to make inquiries about acquiring microphones from the old Harrogate Borough Council offices at Crescent Gardens.