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Havering Council’s opposition leaders slam ‘disgraceful’ lack of discipline that saw debates cancelled

15:04 15 February 2013

Cllr Keith Darvill (Heaton, Labour)

Cllr Keith Darvill (Heaton, Labour)

Havering Council’s opposition leaders have criticised the lack of discipline in the chamber that saw three out of four motions ignored at last month’s meeting.

And they have called for debates to be time-limited so it can’t happen again.

One of the debates - over plans to introduce parking charges in the Hilldene Shopping area - had been the subject of a 1,100-signature petition presented earlier in the same meeting.

But its Labour proposers conceded prior to the meeting to defer it for reasons of timing.

Two others – a debate on the future of St George’s Hospital, Hornchurch, and a debate on Met plans to close a number of stations and desks across the borough – also went unheard.

Cllr Keith Darvill (Labour, Heaton) moved early in the meeting that 40 minutes be allocated to each item.

But the motion was defeated by the administration. As a result, a debate about CCTV in Rainham dragged on for 110 minutes and there was no time for the other issues.

Leader of the opposition Cllr Clarence Barrett (RA, Cranham) said a “lengthy, bad tempered and totally unproductive debate” had been allowed to take precedence over three other topics.

“It is important that matters brought before full council are given the fullest opportunity for debate,” he told the Recorder. “Allocating an agreed time slot per item is the only sensible way forward.”

Cllr Darvill said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the way the meeting unfolded.

“It’s disgraceful they said no to the motion for 40 minutes to be given to each debate,” he said, adding the Tories “domineered” during debates because of sheer numbers.

But Tory whip Cllr Barry Oddy said a 40-minute time limit would have been unrealistic.

“If, as with the CCTV debate, you have two amendments, you’ve got 10 minutes for the person to move their motion and 10 minutes to move each amendment,” he said. “Five minutes to wind up takes it to 35 minutes with no time for the actual debate.

“Can you imagine a 40-minute debate on St George’s? You would be curtailing members in the wards that might be affected from speaking.”

But he also said councillors could raise time-limiting debates with the council’s governance office.

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