Council cuts committee numbers - because of long meetings

Coun John Swindells outside the town hall
Coun John Swindells outside the town hall
  • Planning committee to be trimmed to 12 members
  • Aim is to make meetings ‘more efficient’
  • Some claim move is being ‘bulldozed through’
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A Town Hall committee is to have its numbers slashed, to try to make it more efficient.

The number of councillors sitting on Preston Council’s planning committee is to be cut from 16 to 12, to try to provide a “more efficient and effective” service.

But objectors claimed it had been “bulldozed through”, without time to discuss it.

This week’s full council meeting voted to reduce the number of committee members, and to change the meeting’s time and date, by a majority of 32 votes to 13.

Coun John Swindells, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “One of the real issues with planning committee is the length of time some meetings are taking, and it’s not possible to know how long they are going to take.

“It makes it extremely difficult for councillors who have jobs as well, and the worst thing that could happen is everybody who’s retired ends up on planning committee and there’s no spread of knowledge around.

“So that’s why there’s a proposal to start at 1.30pm and that gives a greater deal of certainty to employers that they will be off in the afternoon.”

He said numbers would also be cut to a “more normal” 12 from 16, with substitutes used for councillors who could not attend.

But Conservative Coun David Hammond, a member of the planning committee, said: “This has just been bulldozed through without the committee sitting down, as a committee, to say what they want.”

Conservative Coun Lona Smith said: “It is one of the few committees that showcases what we do.

“We deal with contentious issues, feelings run high, members of the public are there witnessing what goes on and it’s essential we get it right.

“Many times people are dismayed at what goes on, and sometimes can’t hear what goes on.

“It definitely needs grabbing, shaking and sorting. It is vitally important we get it right and I don’t feel like we’ve had time to talk about it.”

Coun Brian Rollo, chairman of the planning committee, said members had been informed at the start of last month that there would be a discussion at the next meeting, on March 30.

He said: “We’ve got to take the public into consideration in this.

“The decisions we make last forever.

“If we decide to build something, that piece of field or that brown land changes forever.

“So I do sympathise but we’ve got to get it right.”