Sunday, 30 November 2008

Full Council (1)

Thursday evening was Full Council: usually a somewhat tedious rubber-stamping of Labour’s programme, with the occasional fairly innocuous bit of argy-bargy between the parties.

But Thursday’s meeting was different. When the Constitution Working Group met earlier in the year, one of its aims was to improve public access to the Council. In our discussions I pushed for Questions from the Public to be encouraged at the start of Full Council meetings, with the need to give only 24 hours notice of questions to be asked. Previously, the requirement was 10 days, I think – and the right of residents to ask questions was never advertised.

At last month’s AGM of Darlington Friends of the Earth, I told the Group about their right to ask questions in Council. They seized on this idea and on Thursday night came along with five questions, plus supplementaries, for Cllr Wallis, the lead member for the Environment and Climate Change.

This was the first time any member of the Public had ever asked a question at Council. We do often nowadays have speeches from the public at Cabinet Meetings, but never before at Council.

Cllr Wallis had clearly prepared and practiced his answers, which were lengthy and coherent. He didn’t convince his questioners that recycling (or down-cycling) through the new MBT plant was an improvement on kerbside recycling, but at least FoE got their day in court, they were welcomed and heard with respect and the Echo reported the event.
Friends of the Earth want to see as much as possible of our household waste collected at the kerbside for high-grade recycling. They view MBT processers as the necessary final stage of the waste management progamme, but only after as much as possible has been recycled from the kerbside. The Council's new contract with Wades reduces the range of items collected at the kerbside, instead relying on the MBT plant to process waste for low quality recycling.

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