London council ponders long days, late hours, public engagement

A proposal to shift council meetings from evening to daytime hours launched politicians into a broader debate about the way city council does business.

Beneath the policy talk, a committee debate on Tuesday centred around one key goal: keeping Londoners engaged with local government - writes

Coun. Michael van Holst pitched the idea of holding meetings at city hall earlier in the day.

The motion came on the heels of a planning committee meeting that stretched until nearly 11 p.m. Monday night — close to the equivalent of an entire workday.

“I think the decisions might be better if we kept more regular hours,” van Holst told his colleagues Tuesday.

The committee voted 5-1 to endorse van Holst’s motion and task the Governance Working Group with investigating a new schedule.

Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert, the lone opposing vote, wasn’t convinced.

“This essentially is a structural change to how council operates and who can or cannot participate, because you would basically have to be available throughout the daytime,” said Hubert.

He also argued that re-organizing the city hall calendar shouldn’t be a top priority for the final year of this council’s term.

The current schedule includes meetings that begin around noon, but most start at 4 p.m.

Coun. Josh Morgan suggested the city poll residents to see what times would be make meetings most convenient for them.

“It’s a larger question about accessibility at city hall,” he said. “If we want to consider changing the dates and times, the first step would be to set up . . . a possible survey with Londoners.”

There are other ways to encourage residents to participate and attend meetings, Morgan added, noting that Coun. Virginia Ridley has raised the idea of providing child care.

And it’s not just politicians that are stuck in the council chambers when meetings stretch late into the night — it’s also city staff.

Mayor Matt Brown suggested that kind of timing isn’t fair to city employees.

“A lot of these faces were here until 11 p.m. last night and then back this morning for a full day’s work,” he said, gesturing to staff.

“Is that really sustainable for the 11th largest city in Canada?”

Read also more news of London on our site.

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