Statement of Community Involvement [ceasing temporary Covid changes to the scheme of delegation
5.1 The Service Group Manager presented the report. He said that the limited temporary amendments to the current Statement of Community Involvement proposed for retention were with regard to practical arrangements for holding committee and local meetings and not the changes to the scheme of delegation which had been agreed previously by Mayor and Cabinet on a temporary basis.
5.2 Councillor Sorba thanked all the officers in the planning department for maintaining the planning service during the pandemic. He had asked for the item to be called in because he wanted to amend a sub paragraph in paragraph 2.1 of the recommendations:
Make it explicit that people wishing to speak at planning committee meetings will need to register to speak in advance of the meeting and will need to submit written copies of their speeches in advance of the meeting
5.3 Councillor Sorba recommended that ‘will need’ should be replaced with ‘are encouraged’. If the amendment was not made, he considered that it would raise the barrier against participation by the public in the Council’s decision making. He said that one of the objectives in the Corporate Strategy was to increase the public’s involvement in decision making. He considered that this recommendation, if agreed, would decrease public participation.
5.4 Councillor Sorba said that the recommendation would disadvantage some members of the community with lower levels of literacy, for those for whom English is not their first language, with physical difficulties, for those whose neurodivergence makes reading and writing more challenging than speaking and for those who lack digital resources.
5.5 Councillor Sorba said that the cumulative effect of these disadvantages would mean that participation would be predominantly from those on high income and from professional classes and not those harder to reach groups. He recommended that the current practice of allowing residents to present orally should continue and it should not be mandatory to have written participation.
5.6 There was then discussion on this issue and it was noted that the reason for a requesting written speeches in advance of a planning meeting, was so that it could be read out by the clerk in the event of a resident losing connection at the meeting. The Service Group Manager, said that requesting a written speech was not intended to be a barrier to participation. He said that planning officers would be willing to act as scribes for any resident who had difficulty in writing as described by Councillor Sorba. He did not expect to receive a request for this service very often and did not anticipate it would result in any significant increase in officer workload.
5.7 Councillor Bell said that Councillor Sorba’s comments had been outlined at this meeting. He said that he would work with officers to ensure that it was made very clear that residents who had difficulties in written communication could ask officers to act as scribes for their presentations. With this undertaking, Councillor Sorba agreed that there was no need for a call in or a referral for this item.
Resolved that the report be noted.