A Wokingham councillor has called for the council to become “more democratic” after changes were made to the authority’s rules.

Some of the changes mean councillors and members of the public will now be limited to one minute in the time they have to ask follow-up questions to other councillors at public meetings.

Councillor Clive Jones, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I am really disappointed that we still have time limits for public questions, member questions and motions.

“There should be no artificial restraints put in the way of residents, and councillors who want to ask questions or put forward motions.

“Other councils don’t have time limits, why can’t Wokingham Borough Council? What are the ruling Conservatives frightened of?

“I also believe that when questions are asked of Executive members, the questioner should get a written answer at least 24 hours before the meeting.

“This gives the questioner time to consider an appropriate supplementary question. This might improve the quality of some answers from Executive members removing the “political” bits and also improve the quality of some supplementary questions.

“This is done by other councils, why can’t Wokingham? Again, what are the Conservatives afraid of?”

At the meeting, Cllr Jones suggested there should be no limit to public question time, member question time or petitions, and he added: “Hopefully, there will be more consideration given to these simple ideas to make the Council more democratic and help to make the ruling Conservatives more accountable to councillors when the next Constitutional review happens”.

However, councillor Chris Smith hit back at Cllr Jones at the full council meeting on Thursday (November 22), suggesting that the time limits would help to keep meetings shorter and adding it “would be difficult for him to maintain a job” if the meetings were longer.

He also said the council should embrace “diversity” by catering to younger councillors like himself who have full time jobs and ward roles.

The councillor told the News: “We need diversity on the council because we also need to make sure there is a good mixture of working people on the council as well.

“Normally I can manage it pretty well but I hear nightmare stories from friends on other councils who have been in meetings which have gone on well past 2am.

“I have been asked to work a lot more from London recently so I really don’t want a meeting that is finishing at 2am just because Clive Jones wants to go on about how wonderful he is.”

The councillor defended how the authority takes questions from members of the public or other councillors.

He added: “In Wokingham we are fair. On Thursday (at the full council meeting) we started early and it was extended at the end by an extra half an hour.

“I have never seen a member cut someone off if they have a valid question, but I have if they are making a statement.

“If you are sticking to the point and asking a relevant question then it is fine.”

At the meeting, Cllr Clive Jones suggested the council should have shorter meetings and more of them, but Cllr Smith suggested Saturday meetings would be better as “that would encourage more residents to come”.

He continued: “We are flexible and we do accept public questions – we don’t generally cut off speakers unless they are going on for very long.

“If you can’t do it in three hours, what are you doing?”