Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public.


(NOTE: There is a time limit of up to 30 minutes for the above item of business. In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website, questions/petitions at the meeting are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on 15 April 2023).




The Leader confirmed that a petition and a number of questions from members of the public had been received.  However, due to the restrictions that must be observed during the pre-election period and following advice from the Monitoring Officer, these will be deferred to the next meeting of this Committee at the end of May, after the election.




The Chief Executive read out the following statement:


As the Leader has mentioned, we have received a number of public questions for today’s policy committee which, following consideration by the Monitoring Officer, have all been deferred to the next meeting. I would like to take a few minutes of the committee’s time to explain why those decisions, which as Chief Executive I support, have been made.


The period from the notice of election being published until polling day is known as the pre-election period and is when local authorities are required to take additional care in the issuing of publicity of all forms to avoid anything that could give rise to a perception of favouring one candidate or political party. This period of heightened sensitivity - or PERP (Pre-Election Restrictions on Publicity) – applies both at local and national elections.


Guidance has been issued to Members and senior officers about what may and may not be done during the PERP period. This includes ensuring that press releases and statements are factual, and that Members are not quoted; that officers do not attend site visits that Members will be present at; not beginning new consultation activity; and not holding press conferences or photo opportunities that Members may be present at. The overall objective of PERP is to prevent council resources being used in a way that could be perceived to demonstrate support for a candidate or party at the election.


However, the normal business of the Council can and should continue during the PERP period. This includes the holding of meetings such as this one and continuing to take decisions, although particularly controversial or contentious issues should normally be deferred to a later agenda. The agenda for today’s meeting has been carefully constructed to ensure that the decisions to be taken are not ones that are likely to prove politically controversial.


There is a provision in the council’s constitution that all policy committee meetings have an agenda item to allow members of the public to ask questions and to receive answers from the chair of the committee. It is recognised that in the majority of cases members of the public are likely to wish to ask questions about matters that are politically contentious, and this will also be the case during the pre-election period. Asking such questions is not, in itself, likely to be a breach of PERP. However, providing responses to those questions, which would be prepared by officers, and given by Elected Members in a meeting administered, facilitated and resourced by council officers using taxpayers' money, could be considered to be a breach of the PERP guidance. As such, the Monitoring Officer has decided that all the public questions for today’s meeting should not be asked as they deal with matters that are politically contentious, and will, instead, be deferred to the next meeting of the committee after the election.


Recognising this will be frustrating for those members of the public who hoped to be able to ask their questions today, we will consider what options there may be for ensuring greater clarity on the matter of public questions during PERP in future.