A CALL to extend the time allowed for questions by opposition coucillors to the leader of Newport council will be considered alongside other potential changes to the way council meetings are conducted.

A motion which went before a full meeting of Newport council last month requested extending the time allowed for councillors to ask questions from 15 to 30 minutes.

The request was made amid concern some backbench councillors do not have time to ask questions at full council meetings.

But instead councillors voted to refer the request to the council’s democratic services committee, to decide whether to review the issue now or await further guidance on the requirements of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act which is being introduced.

The bill will require Newport council and other authorities to consider how to encourage more public participation in meetings and other issues such as remote attendance by May 2022.

At a democratic services committee meeting on Thursday, councillors decided to await further guidance on the bill being introduced, before making any changes.

Newport Independent Party councillor Chris Evans said the council “need to wait for a matter of months and do it properly”.

“For the sake of waiting for a short period of time, we can have a great deal of sensible and much-needed change,” he said.

But Conservative group leader Matthew Evans questioned the need to wait and said the committee should “grab the bull by the horns and go ahead” with the time extension for questions.

“Standing orders can be changed instantly with a recommendation but clearly there is no appetite among the ruling group to do this,” he said.

“Clearly the resolution was designed to ensure that this was kicked into the long grass.”

Labour councillor Phil Hourahine said 15 minutes should be enough time to ask questions to the leader, but he said there is “a great deal of playing to the gallery”.

“It would only result in members trying to electioneer for themself in this period of time before the next set of elections,” he said.

Cllr James Clarke said it would be better to review changes as a whole rather than “pick and choose little bits and then have to go back”.

Gareth Price, head of law and regulation, said the council can start preparing work ahead of changes being introduced.

“We are not suggesting we kick this into the long grass at all,” he said.

“We need to start work on this quickly but we do not think we can conclude any process until we have had the Welsh Government guidance to make sure what we introduce complies with the statutory guidance.”

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