Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Green Space "Call-in" and an FoI Failure (updated)

Tomorrow (Thursday, 5.30pm) sees the Cabinet's decision to sell off significant green spaces in Bristol - including eight here in Stockwood - "called in" by the Members' 'Overview and Scrutiny Panel' (details here)

Everyone who witnessed the decision will be well aware that the Cabinet rode roughshod over massive opposition and demonstrable flaws in the consultation process - and still reached a decision that doesn't actually provide the funding that the city's parks are said to need.

For the record, the council's own failure to respond to my 'Freedom of Information' request (for the assessments of the allegedly 'low value' sites in question) remains exactly as it was at the end of the consultation, and through the whole of the decision making process. It's now gone seven weeks beyond the date set by law for a reply.

The idea behind the request was to get vital background information, on which the council was basing its decisions, into the public domain. How else could the accuracy of its evidence be challenged? But that vital data remains under wraps, even now

That's just one example of the many failings in the whole process.

Postscript (6/1/11):

The call-in panel wasn't persuaded. It was only too clear from the start that this decision would be taken on party lines - and the call-in panel has 3 LibDems, 1 Tory, and 1 Labour member.

The 'complainants' were Labour's Mark Bradshaw and the Tories' Mark Weston, as the chairs of the two scrutiny commissions whose 5 hour investigation led to an all-party plea for the sell-off decision to be deferred. They argued that the Cabinet had been unreasonable and over-hasty in their decision to sell-off green spaces - the consultation was demonstrably flawed, the sales wouldn't fulfil the Strategy objectives, so why rush the decision?

Officers - who'd clearly been given an impossible task of assessing the many thousands of consultation responses - did their best to justify themselves, while Gary Hopkins decided (as always) that attack is the best form of defence, and turned the whole thing into tedious party political bickering. Sad.

So we finished up with a 3:2 decision to take 'no further action'. The Cabinet decision stands. Every site earmarked for sale will eventually get put on the market at a time to be decided by the officers. Unless of course it's unsaleable.

I'll (reluctantly) request an internal review of why my own FoI request remains unanswered 7 weeks after the statutory date for a response. It's way too late for the documents in question to be challenged, though. The decision's been made.

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