Public speaking will return again at Reading Borough Council (RBC) meetings later this month.

Live questions, petitions and submissions from the public at council meetings were suspended following the coronavirus outbreak in March.

Committee meetings have become virtual since the Covid-19 pandemic, being screened live online using Microsoft Teams, with public speaking replaced by written questions.

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The council will now re-introduce public speaking, using a teleconferencing facility, which will allow members of the public to ‘dial in’ by phone to the online meeting using a unique code.

Council leader Jason Brock said: “I’m really pleased to see the imminent re-introduction of public speaking at meetings later this month, reinstating an important layer of democratic challenge and scrutiny to proceedings, at what remains a difficult time to do business.

“There have been three live online Policy committees and two Planning committees since the outbreak began, where written questions or statements have had to be submitted instead.

“While that has worked well, I am sure all councillors will agree there is no substitute for live discussion with the public.

“I look forward to the cut and thrust of public debate returning with even greater vigour and verve.”

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The council will re-introduced public speaking at  the Policy committee meeting scheduled for June 22 and at the Planning Applications committee on June 24.

Public speaking allowed at meetings includes presenting petitions and questions to committees and speaking by objectors and applicants/agents on planning applications.

A full calendar of up and coming meetings can be found here.

Any member of the public wishing to submit a petition or question to a Committee meeting should contact the meeting administrator via the relevant meeting page on the website.

For the Planning Applications committee, residents who commented on a planning application will receive information directly from the council’s planning team on how to register to speak at the relevant meeting.

Applicants and agents will also be invited to speak on planning applications if there are public speakers.

Deadlines for submission of petitions and questions in writing remain as per ordinary meetings: 6pm four clear working days before the meeting.