Whenever we have an issue that we anticipate might engender a difference of opinion amongst those present, the Chairman reads out the following statement at the commencement of proceedings.
"Public Time – Standard Introduction
I’d like to thank the members of the public who have joined tonight’s meeting and as usual we will open the meeting by allowing up to 15 minutes for questions and comments from members of the public. As this section of our discussions is not covered by a pre-announced Agenda and we are unaware of what might be raised, it is useful to set out some guidance and standards of behaviour at the start to ensure this part of the meeting is conducted correctly.
I’d therefore like to remind members of the public that this section is limited to 15 minutes in total and that no one individual may speak for more than five minutes.
We ask that all matters are presented politely, in a measured manner and are focused and to the point.
Questions or comments should not:
1. Contain offensive language or expressions.
2. Divulge, or require the answer to divulge, confidential or exempt information.
3. Repeat questions previously asked at earlier meetings unless there has been a material change of circumstances.
4. Contain personal attacks on any Council member.
In the event that there is any offensive or unacceptable behaviour directed towards members of the Parish Council or indeed other members of the public, we will pause or stop the discussion as appropriate.
The Chairman's decision on the relevance of a question or comment and on the method of dealing with any issue in connection with this procedure will be final.
Members of the public should be made aware that while the Parish Council is not recording the meeting in audio or video format, other members of the public may be doing so. This is outside our control as it is a public meeting. We would request that anyone planning to record the meeting, as a courtesy, advise the meeting so that members of the public who do not wish to be recorded can notify whoever is recording. Does anyone plan to record the meeting? Does anyone wish not to be seen on any recording?
If you do not wish to be video recorded, I suggest you position yourself where you cannot be picked up by any camera.
I will now open for questions from members of the public."
It helps to set the tone and to establish the authority of the Chairman as the arbiter and enforcer.