Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Silencing of Mr Grouchy

It was a bad evening for Mr Grouchy. 

First, he wished it had been him that used the platform of the Neighbourhood Puppetship to point out to our councillors that it's the City of London where businesses elect them to do their will.  Not Stockwood.  It's people that vote here.

It was Miss Moneypenny that got in first with that line.  The occasion was the 10 minute discussion of one local shopping parade, brought under the heading 'You Said, We Did' which is usually reserved for items raised by residents in the Ward Forums.  This one hadn't gone anywhere near a Forum.  It turned out that our Stockwood councillors have taken on board a raft of business proposals that not only include all the things the council should be doing anyway to look after the highway; they also want to grub up Stockwood's only tree-lined public square to provide an extended car park (although, if some businessmen are to be believed, those parking spaces would become an informal park and ride, permanently occupied during the day).  The whole package, said the councillors, should be added to the Puppetship's Local Action Plan - we had only to rubber-stamp the councillors' wishes before the ten minutes were up and we could move on to the next business.

It all brought echoes of the Great Double Yellow Cover Up of 2010

Miss Moneypenny, getting into her stride, also managed to point out that the very same councillors are desperate to stop new homes being built in the derelict car park behind the shops, although they've complained loud and long about the anti-social behaviour that now plagues the site, and about the failure of the owner to make it fit for the cars of shopkeepers, shoppers, and school-run mums who park on it uninvited.

Not that either of Miss Moneypenny's comments made much difference; the chair-councillor quickly abandoned the neutrality of her role and started arguing.  In the end, the whole thing was put on ice for a couple of months.  I think.  Perhaps the Minutes will tell us. We don't do voting here.

With one item left on the agenda, Mr Grouchy was still determined to have his day.  Even before the Partnership had gathered, he'd been trying, and failing, to get the four ward councillors interested in facing up to the biggest decision they're to take so far; which, if any, of seven green spaces in Stockwood they'll agree to sell off, and how they'll test public opinion on the matter.  Mr Grouchy himself doesn't want them to sell any, but that's not the point.  Anyway, he'd secured a foothold in the agenda - an item about the sell-off, to be used by the NP business managers to explain that since confirmation from the City Cabinet wasn't due for another 48 hours, it couldn't possibly be discussed now.  48 hours, in this case, becoming 8 weeks in the slow-moving cycle of the puppetship.

Anticipating this, Mr Grouchy put his Cunning Plan into action. It was a public statement briefly explaining the things that should have been in a background report - had one been written.  How we've won the right to have these decisions made locally, how quickly the ward councillors are expected to reach a decision, and how any income will be split between the central pot and the Hengrove and Stockwood parks (the local share rises from near-zero (few sites sold) to 70% (all sites sold)).  There was mention that the occasional meetings of busy NP committees wouldn't be enough to sound out popular opinion in this whole new ball-game; and, for good measure, an appeal that during the hoped-for public debate, an option should be considered to ask for 'voluntary' Town Green protection for saved sites.

But Mr Grouchy got nowhere.  His statement had to be delivered in bits, because the councillor chair once again abandoned the neutrality of office, interrupted, challenged, refuted, made speeches, and filibustered.  The other councillors looked a bit uncomfortable, but didn't intervene.  Eventually it all petered out, as the 9pm scheduled end of the meeting passed.  There was no vote, no conclusion, and plenty more problems for the minute taker.

So, with the fate of seven of Stockwood's green spaces hanging in the balance, there is still no plan to involve the wider public.  The councillors who make the decisions are showing not the slightest interest in how best to involve the rest of us. 

And Mr Grouchy is grouchier still.

(Mr Grouchy also tips his hat to Mrs Angry, in Broken Barnet )

[Added late on 26/1/12]
Cabinet confirmed decision this evening, as expected.
More background in this blog 6/12/11 and 26/11/11

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The Bristol Blogger said...

Ain't democracy grand?

Stockwood Pete said...

I'm sure it would be!

Paul BemmyDown said...

As I'v said right from the start, "ain't no democracy here." The question is, should you ignore them, should you be part of the "awkward squad" because they are undemocratic, or should you accept that they won't go away, and therefore take advantage when it suits you? I admit to finding it something of a dilemma.

Stockwood Pete said...

Yep, you did warn me..... :-(

Looking back so far, the main things (to me) that we've got out of it 'from the flor' are some funding for promoting locally grown food, and for a NP website forum where only one of the councillors has ever bothered to register, let alone contribute. Oh, and the NP's authority to make statements to council, demanding that Neighbourhood Partnerships should be the place where green space sales are decided!

How are things in Dundry View?

Paul BemmyDown said...

I didn't go to the last meeting because it was a few days before Xmas, not an idea time. The "top table" usually outnumbers the "mere mortals". My representative, I think I'm right in saying, did not receive any votes but is still the voice of me and my neighbours. Our area is far too big and means each of the 3 wards fight for their own corner which will make it very interesting when the green spaces are discussed. I will continue to attend because we have the little issue of a Link road running through our area and Tim Kent is a cllr. for our NP so there will be a chance to express an opinion, for what it's worth.