Residents who live outside Bristol will be banned from raising their views at full Bristol City Council meetings. Those who spend most of the time in Bristol or work there and consider themselves as Bristolians will be banned too. The new rules will only allow residents living within Bristol’s boundaries and those who own businesses to speak.
Bristol City Council has said that the amendments prioritise residents in the city. The amendments will also help in bringing local authority into line with various neighbouring authorities and even iron out some inconsistencies across the council’s procedures for different meetings like cabinet and committees. Members of the council are set to approve the constitution changes at a full council meeting.
Cllr Tim Kent, the Lib Dem opposition, has said that the outcome may be to deny people their freedom of expression even when they have genuine interests in the decisions by the local authority like cross-border issues such as public transport and car parking charges. The new changes may also prevent neighbouring authorities councillors from raising their issues and questioning the city council members and the mayor.
In recent full council debates on the expansion of Bristol Airport, senior civic leaders from various councils submitted their public forum statements. This practice may now be prohibited if the new laws are enacted. Hengrove and Whitchurch Park Cllr Kent have said that the rules may exclude some people that they should hear from. He said that some leaders councillors deal with issues both in Bristol and its neighbouring environment. It will therefore be an issue if the leaders of the neighbouring regions are ruled out.
A spokesperson at Bristol City Council said that the amendment would bring the council and the neighbouring authorities into line. He also said that it is designed to achieve consistency across their procedures.