Public Forum Statement to Hengrove & Stockwood Neighbourhood Partnership, 17 October 2012
There is something rotten in the state of NP14
This Partnership is far from being either democratic or a Partnership. It carries a thin veneer of both; but there is nothing underneath.
There is an urgent need to put that right, but there is no sign of any interest from the committee or administration in making it happen.
Below are just three examples of recent continuing failings. All of them demonstrate the failure of the Partnership to allow its members to initiate debate and decision making, and how matters are shunted out of sight and off any record, if that is what the Committee and administrators want.
Town Green recommendations?
Late last year, the suggestion was raised that we should consider trying to securing our best green spaces against being for sold off, by getting the legal protection of Town Green status. This would involve: first, a decision in principle by the Partnership; second, consideration of which (if any) spaces would benefit; third, an application to the registration authority (the council) for voluntary registration; and fourth, a decision by the council. It's a long process, and in our January meeting we agreed at least to prepare the ground for the first step. Since then, nothing has been done to progress it, and it's drifted off the agenda despite requests it should be included.
Well-being Grant decisions
This is the controversy over how we decide which well-being grants deserve public funding. We thought we had it sorted, setting yardsticks to help us judge the quality of the bids, and establishing a panel to look at them in depth. But it was seriously tested at our most recent meeting (June) when the two councillors present overturned, without any explanation, a recommendation from the panel.
So for this meeting I asked for an item on this agenda under wellbeing (Item 6), that we should consider asking the councillor/committee to promise that, if in the future they should reject the advice of the panel, they should explain themselves. I thought it a very reasonable request that they should do us this courtesy; but as the only resident member present at the agenda-setting meeting, I was outnumbered four to one with an absolute refusal to even allow it to be raised on the agenda. So that one's been also kicked into the long grass without getting anywhere near any public debate
Equally deep in the long grass is the third example. It's a small deal, but an important one both for this Partnership and for the less athletic people who attempt the steep path between lower and upper Stockwood to reach the main central amenities. It just involves installing a couple of cheap benches alongside the path. First proposed early in 2011, by June 2012 it had slowly progressed, and was already listed as one of our agreed priorities for green space improvements. That led to my request that the June NP meeting could consider giving it top priority as money becomes available, as its high benefits and low costs are self-evident. But we were told it could not be discussed; it wasn't on the agenda. So instead of a brief discussion and decision, it was referred back to our Environment Sub-Committee.
That committee met and agreed that it would be proper to give this particular proposal the priority it deserves. So you might expect it to be a recommendation for this full meeting (as a spending decision it must be made by councillors at a full NP meeting). It's not even on the agenda, despite a request being put at the Agenda setting meeting.
Given these three examples (and there are more, though virtually none of it is reflected in the record of the meetings) this evening's meeting will understand why to some of us the NP seems more concerned with frustrating progress than with making it; much more concerned with rubberstamping pre-selected 'one-choice' decisions than with allowing any real new input from local people.
Right now, I'd like to propose
- that the three items above should be considered today. They've been taken through every conceivable procedural hoop already, and proper requests have been made to put them on the agenda.
- that meetings should be set up to discuss, report, and make recommendations based on the recent Voscur study of the way Bristol's 'Partnerships' are functioning, and to bring proposals to the next NP meeting.
- that this statement should be included in the on-line minutes of this meeting, there being no data protection issues involved.
reluctantly submitted by
Pete Goodwin, current member of the Hengrove and Stockwood Neighbourhood Partnership.
a second, quite independent, statement on similar themes has been posted on the 'HandS ON' thread "Public Forum Statements - read them here if nowhere else!" . Mr. Grouchy is not alone.