North Herts Council has replaced its local area committees with area forums.

The forums are designed to encourage residents to engage with the council in a less formal environment, and will enable members of the public to contribute throughout the meetings.

Taking place four times per year in Baldock, Hitchin, Letchworth, Royston and Southern Rural, each forum will give residents the opportunity to engage with their councillors and local decision-making.

The forums will be chaired by district councillors, starting at 7.30pm with community grant applications and continuing with themed discussions from around 8pm.

The chairs will be able to call on members of the public to speak on any agenda item discussed during the forum.

Any proposals arising from the forums, including grant recommendations from councillors, will go to the executive member for communities and partnerships - currently Cllr Alistair Willoughby - for a 'delegated decision' in consultation with the director for legal and community.

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The application process for community grants is unchanged, and the forums will also incorporate town talks which previously took place in Hitchin, Baldock and Royston.

Explaining the changes, Cllr Alistair Willoughby said: “We want to give our communities more opportunities to engage with us so we’ve revamped our area committees into area forums.

"We’d love you to get involved in local decisions and have your say on council services and the local area.

"We really hope our new area forums will enable and encourage more people to come along, you’re welcome to listen in as well as take an active role in discussions.

"Themes will range from planning, community safety, fly-tipping, basically whatever residents want to talk about."

Cllr Dominic Griffiths, deputy executive member for communities and partnerships, added: "The council is taking a less formal approach to engagement and I’m looking forward to working with Cllr Willoughby and the team on this new approach."

Area forum dates (all start at 7.30pm)

Southern Rural - Thursday, June 22, Offley Village Hall, Luton Road

Hitchin - Tuesday, July 4, location to be confirmed

Letchworth - Wednesday, July 5, location to be confirmed

Royston – Wednesday, July 12, Royston Town Hall, Melbourn Street

Baldock - Monday, July 17, location to be confirmed