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Residents call for public participation review at New Milton Town Council





“IT would be more democratic.” This was the argument as residents called for changes to how public participation is handled at New Milton council meetings.

Town councillors were taken to task over the issue during the public participation session at the start of a recent amenities committee meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the New Milton Residents’ Association, Julia Stamper said three minutes per person was not enough.

Full council and committee meetings are held at New Milton Town Hall
Full council and committee meetings are held at New Milton Town Hall

She felt people should be allowed to further comment on whatever response councillors gave once the meeting was opened.

“Specific committees cover specific issues or concerns,” Mrs Stamper said.

“People tend to turn up to those specific committees with specific questions.

“It would be more democratic if there was room for more dialogue between the public and councillors.”

Having raised the matter at a previous amenities meeting, she was this time backed up by fellow locals Mandy Hayes and Bob Lord.

Amenities chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden said public participation was not an open dialogue
Amenities chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden said public participation was not an open dialogue

Mr Lord took issue with committee chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden having said the procedure had been in place for some time.

“Just because a system’s been in place for some time, doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said.

“Perhaps the protocol should be changed with an attitude to transparency.

“I find it very odd that comments made by councillors, whether right or misleading, can’t be challenged by the public.”

He added: “Any agenda item put to the vote could then be done at the end after a more rounded discussion.”

Responding, Cllr Blunden explained the public participation sessions at the start of committee meetings were “not open dialogue” between residents and councillors.

He stressed the democratic half-hour at the end of full town council meetings was the place for this.

“The advantage of the democratic half-hour is that you’re talking to all town committees,” he explained.

“This is where all the business of the standing committees is ratified.”

But Cllr Steve Clarke pointed out that as the democratic half-hour comes at the end of full council meetings, any recommendations by committees would have already been ratified.

Cllr Robert Murrow agreed the placement of the democratic half-hour should be reviewed, and Cllr Blunden said this could be discussed at a future full council meeting.



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