iFAQs: Public Questions

Revised 16 Oct: Included late response from Cllr Vince Maple, and explanation for lack of responses from Cllr Dan McDonald.

Medway Council are planning to curb the number and type of public questions that they need to answer at public meetings. We’ve covered the situation fairly extensively previously.

During the last meeting, the Cllr Mackness, who is the portfolio holder in charge of this matter, stated that public questions weren’t as important as there were various ways to contact a councillor, specifically highlighting email.

As a result of this claim, we decided to email every single councillor in Medway with some questions about, well, public questions. We emailed every councillor on September 6, informing them that they had until September 21, a little over two weeks to respond. We’ll be analysing the full outcome in a future post, but for now, their full answers are presented below:

  • At the October Full council meeting, the Cabinet Member for Corporate services will be making recommendations regarding questions to the council.
    How do you intend to vote on the recommendation which includes the following motions?
    b.      Removal of a facility for second and supplementary questions.
    c.       Limiting any person, organisation or Member to no more than one question at each Council meeting.
    d.      Discontinuation of the practice of allowing substitutes to ask questions if a questioner cannot be present with a written answer to be supplied after the meeting instead.

The first part of your question, I am not at liberty to answer and you may find that the same for most councillors.  This is due to attending a discussion on a subject not pre-disposed, which is against the democratic process (I am aware that political groups have decided how they will vote prior to the meeting through group whips).  The use of Whips is undemocratic in itself as they breach every level of code of conduct going as they are used to persuade there members how to vote, when apparently they represent there constituents..
As an independent, I have the luxury of listening to a debate (and taking part if I can assist) prior to making a vote
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Yes, I do intend to support the Conservative group regarding questions. I understand both sides of the argument but believe this will provide an opportunity for more people to take part.  Frankly it is just one tiny part of the way we listen to residents as everyone who understands the council will know. Anyone can easily contact me directly by phone, email or by letter. I normally respond immediately and I will always meet if that is what they prefer. Personally I think surgery is a bit outdated these days and I prefer to arrange meetings at a time that suits the resident and then give them as much time as they need.
Similarly, if residents prefer than can contact any cabinet member directly or even the leader. Speaking in full council can be very intimidating for most people, and I suspect in some cases it is more likely to attract those who like a big audience and the chance of press coverage.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

b. Do not agree
c. Do not agree
d. Do not agree
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I am not sure how I will vote yet.
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

Voting against all because Labour proposed the motion to stop this in the first place
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

b. Voted against
c. Voted against
d. Voted against
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

I intend to oppose all the measures which are proposed to limit the rights of Members, and members of the public, to participate in council meetings.  I intend to vote against all these measures.
Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)

As you know, occasionally the high volume of public questions received for full Council meetings means it is not always possible to deal with them all in the thirty minutes allowed for public questions. It therefore seems wholly reasonable to try and address this democratic shortcoming, despite the criticism it may bring from a vocal minority e.g. opposition councillors and your own organisation.
The public rightly ask questions of councillors at all times, at meetings, via correspondence and on the phone. The opportunity to do so at full council is part of this right but I am sure any right minded person would agree that it is reasonable to ensure such rights have some limitations i.e. questions should not be repeatedly hijacked by a minority, should not unduly impact on the efficient and sensible running of Council business nor cause unnecessary delay and inefficiency.

I have considered the proposed changes carefully. The fact that 30 minutes for public questioning (as is the case at present) will be maintained under the proposed changes and that anyone who has not received a response within the time limits will receive a full written reply after the full council meeting, means that I would support these proposals as things stand.
I am very keen to ensure public questions are opened to a greater number and wider variety of local residents and the changes proposed appear to be an effective way of achieving this.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

b. AGAINST
c. AGAINST
d. AGAINST
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

As all Councillors should I will listen to the debate and vote as I think best.
Cllr David Wildey (Con)

I WOULD NEED TO SEE THE ACTUAL AGENDA WORDING FIRST HOWEVER ASSUMING THAT IT FOLLOWS WHAT IS WRITTEN HERE, I WOULD BE VOTING:
b. IN PRINCIPLE FOR
c. IN PRINCIPLE FOR (A QUESTION ABOUT INTERPRETATION OF AN “ORGANISATION” THOUGH?)
d. IN PRINCIPLE FOR
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

For
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 12 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con), Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con), Cllr John Williams (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

My position on this is well documented – our full position will be clear on the evening of the 15th
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • It has been suggested that these changes will not affect the democratic process because Councillors are available for surgeries and via email.
    Can you confirm your surgery details, as taken from the council website, are accurate?
    [ individual details inserted ]
    Can you confirm, through reply, that your email address, as taken from the council website, is valid?
    [ individual details inserted ]

I can confirm that I do hold surgeries every Wednesday between 10am and 12 noon at St Francis of Assisi church as per council website.
Cllr John Avey (Con)

I have now set up ward surgeries at Strood Community Hub on the second Saturday of the month starting this Saturday 10.00am to 12.00pm.  My email address is correct.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Yes my contact details on the web site are correct, but I think the picture was taken when I was much older!
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

yes
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

Yes, these are the accurate surgery details and my email is correct.
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

We no longer have the Maidstone Road surgery as it was unpopular,the Delce is correct we also do street by street surgeries where residents are notified in advance that we are coming and asked to display a “stop here” leaflet in their window on the day if they don’t want to just look out for us.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

These were accurate. I am currently liaising with Chatham Central colleagues on new dates due to the opening shortly of the All Saints Project. Once dates are confirmed here a new set of dates will be released for Luton Library.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Many Thanks for your email, especially in relation to the council website and my surgery details. I will get this updated asap. However, as you do point out my email address is on the web site and my details are also published in Medway Matters, so my constituents can contact me if they so wish.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I will update the website and surgery details if needed ASAP.
I can confirm my email is correct.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Gillingham councillors hold a street surgery in Gillingham High Street on the first Saturday of each month.
The email address you have is the correct one.
Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)

With regard to your list of questions about my contact details, these are correctly listed on the Medway Council web site.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

NO LONGER  TAKES PLACE
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

CORRECT
CORRECT
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

Surgery details are in the process of being updated on the website. They should be up in the next few days.
Correct
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 14 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con)Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con), Cllr David Wildey (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

That is correct although it will be changing very shortly to move to a new venue of the Magpie Centre and will be held on a Saturday Morning.  Roving Surgeries will continue.
Correct
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • What is an acceptable turn around time for a resident to wait for a response to an email?

it is dependent on the question, some can be turned around in a few days, most by 10 days, some a little longer. You also have to take into account whether the councillor  works or not.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind).

I respond immediately – sometimes within the hour but normally in a day or 2. I have no admin support, so if away it might take longer. I have email with me all the time. I dealt with this enquiry in less than 4 hours.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

7 days
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I try to respond to all resident emails within 5 to 7 days which I believe is reasonable
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

I try to respond within 3 days to emails and will arrange face to face to meetings according to urgency, mainly when constituents need to show me documents or require more emotional support. These take place at Gun Wharf or the LP office depending on convenience for residents.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

One working day for holding email or response
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I personally acknowledge my emails soon as I see them, face to face meetings are arranged at a time convenient to both myself and the resident.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

I respond to all emails that require a response as soon as I have read them, this is not always on the same day as receipt owing to the fact I am currently unable to check my account every day but it is usually within two or three days at most. Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

3 DAYS
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.
Cllr David Wildey (Con)

SAME / FOLLOWING DAY FOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT / HOLDING REPLY (UNLESS AWAY / COUNCILLOR ATTENDING EVENING MEETINGS ON A COUNCILLOR’S DAY JOB DAY), SUBSTANTIVE REPLY WILL DEPEND ON WHERE INFORMATION HAS TO BE GATHERED FROM AND RESPONSE TIME OF OFFICERS TO THOSE REQUESTS
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

1-3 days
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

It varies issue to issue, some issues are very straight forward and can be answered immediately – others more complex and can take longer.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • What is an acceptable response time to arrange a face to face meeting?

not sure on this still learning.  But been advised not to meet people one to one alone.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Again, the first date available to both parties. Normally less than a week. If urgent, quicker. I have been known to meet up within 30 minutes.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

7days unless urgent
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I try and arrange face to face meetings within 2 weeks of a request
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

I try to respond within 3 days to emails and will arrange face to face to meetings according to urgency, mainly when constituents need to show me documents or require more emotional support. These take place at Gun Wharf or the LP office depending on convenience for residents
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

Depending on availability of member no more than two working weeks.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I personally acknowledge my emails soon as I see them, face to face meetings are arranged at a time convenient to both myself and the resident. I always copy in my ward  colleagues so they are aware of the work I am dealing with so they can help or take over if I am not available.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

As and when needed. I regualarly meet with  residents and will meet with them in their homes if convenient for the resident. We can also meet at Rochester and Strood CLP headquarters at 73 Maidstone Road, Rochester or in the Labour Group room at Gun Wharf
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.

Cllr David Wildey (Con)

SAME / FOLLOWING DAY TO ACKNOWLEDGE / ARRANGE (UNLESS FALLS AS NOTED ABOVE) AND A FEW DAYS FOR ACTUAL MEETING TO HAPPEN AS DEPENDENT ON WHEN CONTACTED (IE IF ON A DAY WHEN COUNCILLOR IS AT THEIR DAY JOB)
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

ASAP if convenient. If not, 5 days to a week of request.
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

Sometimes diaries can be very busy through no-one’s fault but I always try and see a resident if they ask for a face to face meeting no more than two weeks after contact, and most of the time a lot sooner.  As I live in the ward, sometimes people will just knock on my door to raise an issue or concern.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • If you are unavailable who would you recommend a resident speaks to?

I will always try and direct a resident to the relevant council department or officer.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Kelly Tolhurst, who is also a councillor in Rochester West, or, if appropriate, a cabinet member. Of course, they can also contact council officers direct.  If anyone was having difficulty getting hold of their councillor try contacting Democratic Services.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

I would personally recommend person to speak to who can take matter forward
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

If I am unavailable, I recommend residents address:
– other Ward Councillors
– Chairman or Vice Chair of the relevant Committee
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)
If I’m not available my ward colleague is the first port of call,for some topics I will ask the MP eg immigration.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)
I would offer a meeting with my fellow ward Councillors’ Sam Craven and Mike Franklin should I not be available but this is extremely rare. If the issue is related to non-council related business; welfare assessment, immigration appeals, I would refer to MPs office.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)
Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I always copy in my ward  colleagues so they are aware of the work I am dealing with so they can help or take over if I am not available.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

Cllr Teresa Murray, my ward colleague
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.

Cllr David Wildey (Con)

FELLOW WARD COLLEAGUES, THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION INCLUDED IN MY EMAIL SIGNATURE BLOCK
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

Wendy Purdy
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

If it is an issue in Chatham Central then my two colleagues Paul Godiwn or Julie Shaw, if someone is contacting me as Labour Leader then either Teresa in her role as Deputy Leader or the relevant Labour Spokesperson.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

We received answers from, on average, less than a quarter of councillors to each questions, and even some that did reply barely answered the questions asked. We’ll be analysing the answers we did receive, along with those that we didn’t, in a second post tomorrow.

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