This round of the quarterly Neighbourhood Partnership meetings all have a couple of things in common.
One's that the agenda is virtually identical for each. What we can talk about has been decided by unnamed people at the council house, not by the neighbourhood, not even by the ward councillors.
The other's that the 'Public Forum' has been quietly dropped. No announcement, no explanation, no source; it just ain't there - whatever the NP constitution might say to the contrary.
I became one of the first victims of this remarkable turnaround at the Hengrove and Stockwood NP meeting this evening. I'd filed a 'Public Statement' a week or two back, offering suggestions for getting residents more involved and citing some of the things we'd been getting wrong so far. Bits of it were contentious, with suggestions of abuse of power and cronyism. So instead of the Statement, I had to bring that bit up as a challenge to the accuracy of the last meetings minutes.... but I'll save that side of it for another post.
Anyway, I wasn't allowed to present my statement. After prolonged exchanges, I did get a promise that it will be included in the minutes, and so be part of the public record; but it'll be the last one.
No more public statements, no more public forum. Who knows whose idea that was, but, well, that's democracy, Bristol fashion.
Later in the same meeting, we, like every other NP, were asked to form an 'environmental subgroup' to advise on local aspects of several council services.
I'm glad to say we went a little bit further, settling for separate groups for each ward, a real effort to publicise it and recruit members, and to invite wider public participation through the medium of the internet. Most of this was on the lines of what I'd suggested.
So watch this space. Somehow, stay optimistic.