Come and discuss city council issues affecting where you live, work and study.
That’s the message from councillors as they launch the Canterbury Forum, the Herne Bay Forum, the Whitstable Forum and the Rural Forum.
These council meetings replace what used to be called Area Member Panels and are designed to be far less formal. They have the power to discuss a wide range of issues and make recommendations to other council committees but cannot make formal decisions themselves.
The changes stem from Canterbury City Council’s Community Governance Review (CGR) which explored whether to create town councils in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable and looked at whether changes needed to be made to parish council boundaries.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Chairman of the CGR working group made up of councillors from each of the political groups, said: “Councillors from across the political spectrum always want to know what our residents think about the services the council provides and the issues it is facing.
“Council meetings can be intimidating places full of rules and procedures which make people reluctant to take part.
“We want to break down those barriers and provide a place where residents can meet their councillors, contribute to the debate and suggest topics for discussion.
“That way the public can have some influence over the conclusions reached by the council’s decision-making committees.
“There was little support for the creation of town councils at this time because of fears of creating an extra burden on the council taxpayer and the introduction of another layer of bureaucracy.
“But there was strong support for changes of this type.”
As well as having a different name, important changes to encourage public participation include:
- The chance to meet and chat with councillors and council officers over tea, coffee and a biscuit before the more formal part of the meeting kicks in
- Making it easier for the public to participate in the meeting by radically relaxing the rules about who can speak, when and for how long
- Having easy-to-follow guides on how the meeting works including who is who for everyone who attends
- Having a set time for the meeting to end and a window of time for each item so members of the public know what to expect and have some idea of when they can head for home
- Giving the public the chance to suggest items to be discussed at future meetings
- Giving each forum its own web page
- Far better publicity about the meetings and what is on the agenda
Because different councils deliver different services, parish councils are an integral part of the Rural Forum. County councillors are also invited to all four meetings.
The venues for each meeting are:
- Canterbury Forum: Church hall, St Peter’s Methodist Church, St Peter’s Street, Canterbury
- Herne Bay Forum: Herne Bay Baptist Church, 105-109 High Street, Herne Bay
- Rural Forum: Guildhall, St Peters Place, Canterbury
- Whitstable Forum: St Alphege School, Oxford St, Whitstable
Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “The councillor working group owes an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who contributed to the Community Governance Review process.
“We will work hard to make the arrangements a success but if you think they need to be tweaked, let us know.”
The first Canterbury Forum takes place on 10 September, the first Herne Bay Forum on 11 September, the first Whitstable Forum on 12 September and the first Rural Forum on 17 September.
All meetings start with a chance to speak to councillors at 6.30pm before proceedings kick off at 7pm.
For information on each forum, visit: