Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The blue glass house in Stockwood

Jay Jethwa's Evening Post attack on LibDem councillors relied on an appeal for transparency and integrity in public life. It was motherhood and apple-pie stuff. But before we get any more calls for democracy to be seen to be done, our two Stockwood councillors should look very much closer to home.

The Hengrove and Stockwood Neighbourhood Partnership meeting in June was horribly chaotic, but otherwise seemed unremarkable. Once again, it was hard after the event to work out quite what (if anything) had been agreed by whom, and if so, just who was going to put it into practice. The only sure thing was that the residents wouldn't play much part in it.

The meeting kicked off with a couple of Public Forum statements, one of which dealt with that topic that should make every councillor run for cover - residential on-street parking. A local whose house fronts both the busy West Town Lane and the quieter Imperial Road (pictured) put his case against imposing parking restrictions at that corner, claiming they were unnecessary. So far, so good.

The norm for Public Forum statements is that they're received and passed to the relevant councillor or officer. There's no debate, no immediate response. Officers might know a bit about the issue - but aren't invited to explain. The meeting moved straight on to the next item. As it should.

The Minutes of the meeting tell a different story:
"A Public Forum Statement was received from Colin Williams concerning a proposal to install yellow lines at the West Town Lane/Imperial Road Junction. It was agreed that this scheme should not be proceeded with."


OK, I know that it's the councillors who make the spending decisions, but isn't the whole idea of the Neighbourhood Partnership to sound out local opinion, to weigh up the pros and the cons, and reach a decision in public ? Uniquely, this one individual's public forum statement was taken as doing the job - though it certainly wasn't apparent at the time.

Hmmm.... demonstrable integrity, with decisions being taken openly, after due debate and without undue influence..... ??

Far from it. Here were our two Tory ward councillors (David Morris in the Chair, plus Jay), and one of the LibDems from Hengrove, cutting some highly unorthodox corners.

Could it be because the 'public forum statement' that triggered it came from an ex-Tory councillor, now an Alderman of this city, who didn't fancy having double yellows on his doorstep?

Jay Jethwa is throwing stones from a particularly fragile glass house.


Paul/Bemmy Down said...

Well done Pete. At least you never used "Neighbourhood Partnership" and "Democracy" in the same sentence.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks, Paul. I'm trying to find out more about this particular decision, through an FOI request and I'll probably mention it in a public statement to our next NP meeting.

Oddly (and, I hope, accidentally) neither of the two NP's that have meetings in the next couple of weeks have included a public forum on their published agenda! I'm sure there'll be lots about 'empowering local communities' though.

Tim said...

I read "The blue glass house in Stockwood" and thought for a moment that something architecturally interesting was being built....stoopid me :-(

Stockwood Pete said...

Sorry. Just an irritating habit of mine....

Maybe we could have a real blue glass house on one of our green sites that's up for disposal. A landmark project at the edge of the hill, visible from most of Bristol, to honour Stockwood's contribution to conservative ambition.