It’s your call: Changing the way Canterbury does democracy

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Democracy is changing thanks to Canterbury City Council's new forums

A new way of doing local politics will greet people in Canterbury in September.

The city council is introducing its Canterbury Forum, a discussion chamber it hopes will bring councillors and residents closer together.

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding oversaw the authority’s review of governance, which looked at and ultimately rejected the idea of town councils for the district’s urban centres.

He said: “Councillors from across the political spectrum always want to know what our residents think about the services the council provides and the issues it is facing.

“Council meetings can be intimidating places full of rules and procedures which make people reluctant to take part.

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding

“We want to break down those barriers and provide a place where residents can meet their councillors, contribute to the debate and suggest topics for discussion.

“That way the public can have some influence over the conclusions reached by the council’s decision-making committees.

“There was little support for the creation of town councils at this time because of fears of creating an extra burden on the council taxpayer and the introduction of another layer of bureaucracy.

“But there was strong support for changes of this type.”

The Canterbury Forum replaces the Canterbury Area Member Panel, which met in the Guildhall on Monday nights four times a year.

There will be similar changes made to the committees which operate in Whitstable, Herne Bay and the rural area.

The council says that as well as having new names, it is making other significant changes. They are:

  • The chance to meet and chat with councillors and council officers over tea, coffee and a biscuit before the more formal part of the meeting
  • Making it easier for the public to participate in the meeting by radically relaxing the rules about who can speak, when and for how long
  • Having easy-to-follow guides on how the meeting works including who is who for everyone who attends
  • Having a set time for the meeting to end and a window of time for each item so members of the public know what to expect and have some idea of when they can head for home
  • Giving the public the chance to suggest items to be discussed at future meetings
  • Giving each forum its own web page
  • Better publicity about the meetings and what is on the agenda

The first meeting of the Canterbury Forum takes place in the new venue of St Peter’s Methodist Church Hall, St Peter’s Street, at 7pm on Monday, September 10.

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