Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Aren't Neighbourhood Partnerships brilliant?

We actually achieved a bit of people power at the Neighbourhood Partnership meeting last night.

It was a pretty earnest but uninspiring agenda that delivered all that was required of it - but the interest lay elsewhere.

We threw out the 'Code of Conduct' required of Partnership members, and substituted something called 'ground rules' for the meetings, yet to come, and to be written in plain English. For me (as one of the delegate members), it means I can feel free to blog about the NP without first signing an Official Secrets Act.

We had a Public Forum item, too - which is probably unique in the curent round of NP meetings, because it's been disappeared from their agendas. It drew three statements, and they in turn contributed to our final decision - added as an emergency item in spite of vigorous protests from the LibDem corner (including our own Goulden Boy, self-styled saviour of the Craydon Road Open Space). They didn't want it discussed at any price and raised every possible objection (none of them valid!)

The subject was, of course, the Green Space sell-off - or rather the failures in the consultation, such as the loss of Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces response, the failure to fulfil FoI requests, and the under-recording of petition numbers. I'd distilled this into an appeal from the NP to Thursday's Cabinet to delay any decision to sell land until it could be sorted out. Eventually, it was overwhelmingly approved - with the sole exception of the three dissidents, who presumably want an immediate decision to sell.

I'm glad to say that today's Scrutiny Commission reached the same conclusion as our Neighbourhood Partnership, so the Cabinet will be faced with a multiple appeal to hold back on the controversial sales when it meets tomorrow.


DocRichard said...

hi Pete,
I'm in Stockwood HC today. Sorry late notice, but wd you like to have lunch together ? My no zero 77four 786 double8 36. Text as poor reception here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete.
You say you are a delegate member. Does this mean that you were elected and if so, by whom?

Stockwood Pete said...

Insofar as Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces agreed that I should be their rep on the NP, yes, I'm elected. I have secured a minor change in that organisational members like me can be 'substituted' by the organisation concerned. But no-one 'elected' FoSOS onto the Partnership, so far as I know.

At the moment, the partnership is a fairly ad hoc group of people who've taken an interest in getting the NP up and running, in effect, a steering group; if you were at the meeting on Tuesday (I rather think that you were!) you'll know that the only ex-officio voting members are the ward councillors, the rest come from Community organisations or are resident reps, and can only vote on matters that don't involve spending. It's hoped that a better democratic process can be run next year, though it will depend on the community interest just how representative it becomes.

Do you have an interest in this? Could you be one of Tuesday's dissidents?

Paul BemmyDown said...

Sorry Pete, I was Anonymous by mistake, not intent. Push one key, get a different result. I was at a NP meeting on Tues. but not yours. My problem with NP is I see no way they can be democratic. Very few of my neighbours know they exist let alone what they are about. I said at a previous meeting that 90% of my neighbours did not know about NP and a very prominent councillor said she was surprised. Thought it would be nearer 99%. That may have been somewhat "tongue in cheek" but she did not argue. Even with the best of intentions it seems difficult to get the message out. This leaves influence with the same small group of people, and although I am one of that group, surely it's not how devolving power to local people was intended. Untill a way is found to give a majority of residents atleast the chance to get involved, making decisions on behalf of the community cannot be right.

Stockwood Pete said...

Hi Paul

My paranoia must have been showing! Reason is, there's been a bit of a spat going on off-blog about the NP decisions, and I thought it was spreading here!

I agree, I don't see any way that the NPs can become representative of communities under the present system, focussing on a quarterly council-style meeting. We're making some efforts here, setting up sub-groups to deal with particular issues (environment, transport, etc) which should be much more accessible. Personally, I think the web should be the key to extending it and making it more immediately relevant. Given its instant access and ever-greater 'interaction' (plus its extent to what, 70% of households?) it can reach so much further than 'Our City' or notices in libraries. I know two or three longer established NPs (Bris, Gtr. Bedminster) have gone down this road, and we're following: the council is providing web space for all NPs and a pretty free hand in running it.

Still a long way to go, though!

Anonymous said...

I think we need to learn some lessons from Athenian democracy. It's correct that councillors and representatives of groups should make the arguments about how money should be spent in communities. However the decision should be made by local people selected by lottery, a bit like a jury.

For each partnership, 51 names could be drawn from a hat and paid £10 to attend (expenses for the people). They can then hear the arguments and decide how that year's money is spent. Each year new names can be drawn.