What happens at a city council meeting
The council meets monthly (except August and October). Extraordinary meetings are sometimes held to deal with particular issues.
Layout of the chamber
Meetings since 1879 have taken place in the semi circular chamber. The Lord Mayor, as Chair of the Council, sits in the central seat on the rostrum. Seated to the right are the Deputy Lord Mayor and the reporting Chair of Committee.
To the left of the Lord Mayor are seated the Chief Executive and the City Solicitor. They provide advice on the conduct of the meeting. The Council team leader makes an official record of the proceedings and decisions taken.
Upon election, councillors are allocated a specific seat in the chamber. The grouping of seats is along party political lines, with Labour occupying those on the left of the Lord Mayor, Conservatives on the right, and between them the Liberal Democrats and other groups, although the various groups tend to merge in the centre of the seating. The reduction from 156 aldermen and councillors to the present 120 councillors means that not all of the seats in the chamber are now occupied.
The media make use of a press table located below the rostrum, and in front of the members seating area. A number of officers will also be present on the floor of the chamber, supporting various aspects of the meeting, and committee chairs presenting reports or responding to questions.
Behind the members seats are three other areas:
- the public gallery: accommodates 90 people and is approached by a rear staircase located behind the courtyard gatehouse in Chamberlain Square
- an officers box: situated adjacent to the Glass Corridor and available to those officers attending the council
- the aldermen box: on the Chamberlain Square side of the gallery, used by Honorary Aldermen who are entitled to attend any council meeting of their choosing
Each seat has shared access to a microphone, which is controlled from the rostrum via a computer. The Lord Mayor also has access to the system which displays the microphone layout, so that those wishing to speak can be identified. The Lord Mayor’s microphone incorporates an override button.
The meetings are conducted on a formal procedural basis, and are governed by Standing Orders which can only be varied by the council itself.
Amongst other things, these Standing Orders deal with the order and conduct of business, the length of speeches and voting arrangements. They also give the Lord Mayor authority in certain circumstances to clear the public gallery or even ask a member to leave the chamber.
Throughout the period while the council is in session, the Mace rests on supports in front of the rostrum and acts as a symbol of authority (though it has no procedural significance).
The Mace was presented to the council in 1897 by Elkington Co as a gift to mark Queen Victoria’s 60 years reign and the new status of Birmingham with the office of Mayor becoming Lord Mayor.
It is a replica of the Mace in the House of Commons with a gold sovereign piece in the base.
Order of business
The Council Summons is produced the week before the meeting and is available, along with the minutes of the previous meeting, for inspection by the public. The Summons defines the order of business.
Details of the time and date of the meeting (generally at 2pm on the first Tuesday of the month) are displayed on the Council House noticeboard at the main entrance, (and also online) and public attendance is welcomed.