I agree with John that your comments on the NALC are unfair. I have no idea what their motivation for a 2-hour limit might have been, but I find it a really useful target and completely achievable for a good clerk and good chair working together. As Frank has said, circulating the paperwork beforehand is critical. A good chair will also remind members that the standing orders allow them normally to speak only once on each item. Clarity in the agenda, paperwork circulated beforehand, a clear motion understood by all and even the most complex agenda item should last for no more than 5 minutes. My most recent PC meeting lasted less than an hour and a half. There were 48 items on the agenda, including verbal reports from 2 district councillors, a county councillor and the police (which we find very useful). If they tried to keep me there for 4 hours, I would walk out and leave them to it!
The NALC is not a perfect organisation and some of the local associations are less efficient than we might like them to be. The standing orders are a model document that can be tailored to meet the needs of individual councils, however, I have never found this to be necessary as I believe they provide a robust framework to which we should all aspire.