12 May 2022
Members of every political party, community groups, GP surgeries, schools, small businesses and people across Bath & North East Somerset have put their names to an open letter denouncing council plans that will deter many from making statements to Council- because the council is insisting they must submit their full three-minute speech in writing first.
The contentious proposal was even covered by Private Eye magazine at the end of April. The BathNES residents’ letter says, “You’re asking for a GCSE-standard piece of work as an ‘entrance exam’ to be allowed to tell the council their views.” In just a few days, over 100 residents have added their names.
On Thursday (12 May) councillors are being asked to “confirm whether the full text of a statement from a member of the public or a councillor must be submitted in writing by the published deadline for registering this intention.”
The letter says the unnecessary rule change will harm groups like the elderly, those without computers, those with medical conditions affecting communication (from dyslexia to neurological conditions), people whose first language isn’t English, and anyone not confident about written English. It says 16% of people in England are functionally illiterate and “more likely than most to avoid having to submit a written three-minute speech to (presumably well educated) elected councillors in a council chamber.” 16% of BathNES’s 2018 population of 192,106 is a staggering 31,722 people. Historically, the council has sometimes required people to submit a full written text in advance, but often allowed them to send just bullet points with the gist of their speech.
This is one of three issues about the review of BathNES’s constitution which a working group is taking to full Council for a decision. Whatever councillors decide will be included in the “final refreshed” constitution that goes to Council for a final vote in July.
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