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NEWPORT EXTENDS DEMOCRATIC VOICE

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Newport CBC has become the first authority in Wales to give ordinary citizens the chance to speak at council meetin...
Newport CBC has become the first authority in Wales to give ordinary citizens the chance to speak at council meetings.

The council has extended '11 o'clock business' at full council - which is already used by groups such as the police - to allow members of the public to address members. The first person to take advantage of the move was John Martin, secretary of the Newport in Bloom committee, who made a seven minute speech to councillors about the future of an area parkland in the town.

This is the latest in a range of measures introduced by the council to increase democratic accountability, including public meetings, user groups, customer surveys and public consultation.

Neighbourhood committees, based on wards, were set up in June 1994 and are held on a quarterly cycle to give the public an opportunity to question councillors and officers.

Mr Martin had responded to an advert in the local press inviting people to put forward issues on which they wish to comment or ask questions at full council. His name was selected at random by the chief executive.

The same procedure will be followed at future council meetings. The presenter of each topic is given the right to speak for up to seven minutes and to put a question to the council, with the possibility of two supplementary questions if the relevant chairman is able to give an instant response.

CouncillLeader Harry Jones said the scheme was a further stage in the council's approach to increasing the involvement of citizens in public affairs.

'We are already committed to giving people a democratic voice in local government, and this is another way of extending this,' said Cllr Jones.

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