Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Disappearing Data: how to rewrite history

It's just over a year since the council's Public Rights of Way and Greens (PROWG) committee, under the 'open-minded' chairmanship of Peter Abraham, made its now discredited decision to refuse registration of part of the Ashton Vale site as a Town Green. That ruling was meant to trigger the Bristol City stadium project (plus the mega-Sainsburys at Ashton Gate, all the 'hospitality' infrastructure, and that 'exclusive' new housing estate at the Ald. Moore allotment site).

A year later, we're in the same place as before the committee meeting, except attitudes have hardened still further, and the council's thrown away a small fortune in its efforts to defend the decision it now admits was wrong.

Revisiting the webcast of the original meeting, I was surprised to see that it's just been wiped from the public record. It seems to have gone the way of many (but by no means all) BCC meeting webcasts over a year old. So the act of dodgy decision making is now kept from public gaze. Only the bare Minutes of the meeting are there – and of course they tell next to nothing of the whole story.

[ Still amazed at the sheer brass neck of the Chairman to remain in the chair and claim 'open-mindedness', I've put in an FoI request for a copy of the advice he claims to have received to legitimise his remaining in the chair ]

It's not just webcasts that disappear from the record. For the last year or so, the 'Public Forum' Statements submitted to council meetings have been disappearing into a black hole – or, at best, a 'Minute Book' somewhere in the recesses of the council house. Older statements are still on the net and readable from your laptop; Councillors' statements are there too, up to date. But if you – or an organisation – want to put in a helpful Statement to members discussing a particular issue, it won't be on the record.

Apparently it's a 'data protection' issue... or so it's said.

By way of a local example (and there are far more important ones out there...) this meant that our Statement from Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces (about voluntary registration of Town Greens) to the March Neighbourhood Partnership was unavailable once that meeting had passed – even though it had prompted a request for an officers report at the next meeting, so it was a key part of the information/decision process. So for the following meeting, the Friends have had to put in another 'reminder' Statement, this time specifically asking that it should be included in the on-line record. We've yet to see whether it will be included in (or linked from) the meeting Minutes – but the signs aren't good.

South Glos seems to publish on request. In BaNES it's not even a concern, all statements are still part of the online record.

But here in progressive democratic Bristol, it looks like the rule is rigid, no matter how irrational. And the rule is....BURY IT.

You have to wonder what the real reason is for making the public's statements so inaccessible.

Sax Appeal

Seen in a Victoria Street bus shelter - a moving story of a lost love.

The small print says to contact Bojak on 07734872425

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Free coach trip at public expense. Just join 'Senior Moments'

A Stockwood older peoples' group is to get a coach outing at public expense, at the insistence of Stockwood councillors David Morris and Jay Jethwa. 

A £500 chunk of the ward's 'wellbeing' fund will be used to pay for the trip by 'Senior Moments', the over-50s group that meets each month in the library.

The decision was driven through, despite protests from Partnership members, at this evening's meeting of the Hengrove and Stockwood Neighbourhood Partnership.

The Wellbeing fund is a fixed sum allocated to each partnership from central city council funds. Organisations can ask for grants from it ; every request for a grant is first closely examined by a subcommittee of Partnership members, using agreed guidelines to prioritise the best ones, and making recommendations to help the councillors decide which ones to accept.

Neither of the Stockwood councillors had been at the subcommittee meeting and only one, David Morris, was at the NP meeting. The other, Jay Jethwa, had already made it known that she'd like to see the money spent on the outing – but she wasn't there to vote. 

The consensus of the subcommittee, and the near-consensus of the Partnership, was that coach outings are not what the wellbeing money is for. 

The only other councillor present this evening, Sylvia Doubell of Hengrove, deferred to Cllr. Morris's judgement as it's ''Stockwood money” that's being spent. And he rallied in support of his absent colleague, and voted the £500 away.

So.... if you fancy a summer outing and you're over 50, get yourself up to the Library on the third Wednesday of the month, 10.30am. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. You'll probably find that 'Senior Moments' will provide good company for your free trip out.

And while everything around you is being cut back with the enthusiastic support of our Tory councillors, you can at least benefit from their utter inconsistency and their contempt for the concept of 'partnership'.   And wonder why you get the freebie and others will go without.

UPDATE:  1st October 2012.
A request goes in from an NP member  (Stockwood Pete himself) to get an item on the next NP agenda to try to stop this sort of thing happening again.   The idea is to invite the Partnership to suggest that councillors should give us an explanation if they choose to overturn a 'well-being' recommendation.   Councillors can give that undertaking, or not, as they choose - but it will be on record.
Officers and councillors flatly refuse to allow it on the agenda.   Under what powers is not clear.