Where and when?
A Public Open Forum session is held at the start of all ordinary full council meetings. The session starts at 2pm and finishes at 2.30pm, or sooner if all questions have been asked.
How do I give notice of my intention to speak / ask a question?
Notice of any question to be asked or notice of an intention to speak on an item on the agenda must be given in writing or by electronic mail (e-mail) to the Chief Executive. Each notice must give the name and address of the speaker or questioner and must name the member of council to whom the question is to be put or the item on the agenda to be addressed.
If you would like some help with this, please ask to speak to a member of our Legal and Democratic Services team who will be happy to assist you.
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Questions can be directed to any member of the council. Most questions are directed at Executive members who each have a list of services for which they are responsible. If you don't know the name or who is the responsible Executive member, you could always address your question like this:
To: The Executive Member responsible for [state topic, e.g. refuse collection, housing, town centre development].
You can ask up to TWO questions or ask to speak on up to two items on the agenda. Your two questions could be to the same member or two different ones.
You are allowed a supplementary (follow-up) question on each main question. Your follow-up question must be about the same subject as your main question or about the answer you are given.
Who can speak?
Any residents of the district or any non-domestic ratepayer.
Is there a deadline?
The deadline for receiving your questions is three working days before the day of the meeting. That means you would normally need to send your question to us by 2pm on the Monday before the day of the meeting on the Thursday . If the Monday is a Bank Holiday, the deadline will be the Friday (or Thursday if the meeting falls after the Easter weekend).
Will my question definitely get asked at the meeting?
Usually, yes - unless we have already received a total of six questions and notices to speak for that meeting (see below).
When we receive your question at our offices, the Chief Executive will decide whether to allow the question or the right to speak. She can reject it if:
- it is about something for which this council is not responsible or it does not directly affect the district of South Kesteven
- if your question is objectionable, improper, offensive, or contains defamatory language
- is more or less the same as a question that has been put at a previous meeting of the council in the last six months
- to answer the question means that confidential information would have to be given out
What happens at the meeting?
If you have sent in a question or requested to speak, we would welcome you coming to the meeting to put your question or speak in person.
If you can do this, it would help if you could arrive in the Council Chamber for about 1.50pm. Please identify yourself to the clerk or another member of staff (all staff wear identity badges). You will be asked to come to the front of the chamber and read out your question. You will be shown where to sit and to speak into a microphone. This is so everyone in the chamber can hear you and because we digitally record the meeting through the microphone system. If you need help with any special needs or because of disability, please let a member of the committee staff know before the meeting.
So that the council can hear the maximum of six questions and/or speakers allowed in the 30 minute open forum session, each question and answer is given a time limit of five minutes and each speech a time limit of five minutes. The questions and speeches will be asked or made in the order in which we have received them. If we have more than six questions and speeches in total, the last ones received will be held over until the next meeting.
Before the meeting, your question or your request to speak, together with any others, will have been printed and circulated at the start of the meeting to all the councillors and other members of the public attending. You will be given a copy of all the questions and requests to speak.
What happens if I can't attend the meeting? Can someone speak on my behalf?
If you can't come to the meeting, our council rules don't allow for sending someone in your place. The chairman can decide whether to ask the question on your behalf. Only the chairman can do this - your own ward councillor is not allowed to ask your question or speak on your behalf. If you know at the time of sending in your question or request to speak that you can't come to the meeting, it would help if you told us.
Will I receive a written reply?
If you can't be at the meeting, and the chairman has decided to put your question on your behalf, the clerk will send you the written response in the post shortly after the meeting. If the Executive member to whom you have put your question is not at the meeting, then you will get a written answer within seven working days of the meeting.
All the questions and any follow-up questions asked at the Public Open Forum, together with any speeches, are recorded word for word in the minutes of the meeting. Those minutes are usually published on the council's moderngov portal about one week after the meeting. If you would like a written copy to be sent to you please ask the clerk at the meeting.