Residents and representatives of communities, organisations or campaigns can have their say at most council meetings. You can make a statement, present a petition or, at full council meetings, ask a question.
Council meetings are taking place in-person (not virtually) with social distancing operating in the venues. Meetings will continue to be live-streamed online and those who wish to view them are strongly encouraged to do so online to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
In line with government guidance, all attendees are strongly encouraged to take a lateral flow test before the meeting.
How to address a meeting
You have to ask in advance to address a meeting. Before you complete the application form, you'll need to know:
- the name of the meeting
- the date of the meeting
- what you want to present.
You must complete the form by 9am four working days before the meeting you wish to speak at. See our meeting calendar for dates of meetings.
When asked 'Reason for attending the meeting' on the form, please state if you prefer to address the meeting in person or ‘virtually’ by online connection.
Where it is possible to address a meeting virtually, we strongly encourage you to do so to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection. A committee officer will contact you to facilitate your attendance whether in-person or virtually.
If you are going to speak 'virtually', you can provide a written copy of your statement not later than 9am two working days before the meeting. This will be available to participants in the event of a technical problem preventing them from taking part in the virtual meeting.
If you are unable to complete the online form, you can contact Committee Services at County Hall and explain what you wish to speak about. You will find a contact name and telephone number on the front of the agenda for the meeting.
About the meeting
Before the meeting, we will have to put your request to the councillor who will be chairing the meeting. You will be told the councillor's decision and, if possible, given an idea of the approximate time when the item you are interested in is likely to be discussed. The councillor considering your request will need to be satisfied that what you wish to say relates to an item on the agenda for that meeting.
If your request is agreed, you will be allowed to speak for no more than five minutes. Sometimes this time limit may have to be reduced because of the length of the agenda or the number of people wanting to speak. When speaking, you must keep to the subject, you must avoid using offensive or abusive language, and you must keep to time.
Speaking at more than one meeting on the same subject
The council is keen to encourage the public to attend meetings and to speak about issues where they feel strongly. However, sometimes a particular issue can be discussed at more than one meeting before a final decision is taken. In such cases, it is the council's normal practice to allow a member of the public to address only one of these meetings. It is for you to choose where you wish to speak - at the cabinet, the council or a committee. Your local councillor or any committee officer can advise you on this.
Video about addressing a meeting
Read video transcript
At some time, most of us feel strongly about an issue affecting us, our families, or our communities. You can always contact your councillor to talk about your concerns.
But did you know you have the right to address local council meetings yourself?
Mr Davis is planning to address a council meeting: "I'm hoping that I can persuade the council to reroute the bus service that goes along the main road and take it through the centre of our village."
It's important the council knows what local people think. So most meetings include a short period for members of the public to speak about items – you’re usually allowed up to five minutes.
(Mr Davis attends a council meeting...)
Meeting chair: "I call on Mr Tim Davis to make his representation to the committee."
Mr Davis: "Good morning, Madam Chair, Councillors. I would like to ask the council about the possibility of rerouting the number 7a bus service and taking it though Bentley village to give us a direct service into Needham. Many of our residents both young and old who need a bus service to travel to work, to the leisure and medical facilities there and local shops. And so I would ask the council to give very serious consideration to these concerns."
Meeting chair: "Thank you, Mr Davis, for your contribution. Does anyone have any questions?"
Councillor: "Yes, I have one quick question. Mr Davis, what arrangements at the moment do residents have to travel to Needham?"
Mr Davis: "Oh, they have to walk to the main road which is a considerable distance..."
(After the meeting...)
Interviewer: "So how did that go?"
Mr Davis: "Better than I expected. Yes, I was quite pleased. They were very friendly, very responsive. It made me realise the importance of members of the public coming and talking to their councillors. After all, we want them to do the best for us and how can they do that unless they know what we want?"
Even if you don't like public speaking or can't go to the meeting in person, you can make your views known through a petition or a written submission. This is simply a written version of your views which the meeting will consider.
The best way of finding out about which meeting to talk to and when they meet is by contacting the council by phone or email. Or you can view meeting agendas on our website or at the main council office.
Mr Davis: "Well, I'm representing the members of our community. And it's up to people like me to come and tell the councils what we want them to do. It is our council after all."
Whatever your concern, it's really important to get your views heard.
It's your voice. Use It
Asking a question at full council
The full council, attended by all councillors, meets six times a year. The biggest decisions, such as the acceptance of policies and the budget, are reserved for full council.
If you have a question that you want to put to the leader of the council or any other member of the Cabinet, or the chair of a particular committee or scrutiny committee, you must submit it in writing.
Your email or letter must arrive at the address below no later than 2pm on the second working day before the council meeting. You can only ask one question at a meeting.
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Before the meeting you will be contacted and told whether your question has been accepted and, if possible, given an idea of the approximate time when it will be dealt with.
About the meeting
The chair of the council will invite you to put your question to the councillor to whom it is addressed. A copy of the question will have been circulated in advance to all councillors and will be made available to the press and public attending the meeting. Once you have asked your question and it has been answered, you can put a supplementary question to the same councillor. The supplementary question must arise directly out of the original question or the reply you received.
If the councillor to whom you have addressed your question is not present at the meeting, you will be sent a written reply.
Get involved in council committees
A small number of council committees are made up not only from elected councillors, but also from members of the public or people representing specific organisations.
These people are called co-opted or independent members. For some committees, the council is required to seek nominations for these seats from members of the public. When we are seeking nominations, notifications are published in local newspapers and on this website.