Thursday, 18 February 2010

Community voices in the wilderness

I was very disappointed by the response Councillor Jon Hardy's motion to Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) on the failure of Hounslow's Environment Department to address community concerns over its Electronic Data Management System (EDMS) received from fellow members this evening.

We are blessed in Isleworth and Brentford to have so many community groups that are familiar with the planning process and able to offer advice and constructive criticism when things aren't running perfectly. As a local authority that is publicly committed to Community Engagement one might have thought there would be a willingness to engage with members of the public on a matter of some importance, and on which it is in everybody's interests to get right, but rather the attitude from the Department has been defensive and antagonistic.

A planning expert who sits as a co-optee on Central Hounslow Area Committee, Brentford Community Council, Campion Concerns, The Isleworth Society, the Four Roads Residents' Association and the St. John's Residents' Association - all of these, as well as obviously the ICG, have been involved in the work. But tonight the two Labour members of the SDC who were present, both of them awkward and I would say a tad sheepish in disposition as they delivered their comments, sought to have the community motion struck out on technical grounds (one of them referred to it as "political"!), and most other members of the Committee, to me, gave off an impression that they hadn't really grasped what was going on.

Other than Jon and I only Brentford Lib Dem councillor Andrew Dakers supported the motion, and more precious time was stalled for as we head rapidly towards the local elections and the possibility, if we are not re-elected and back in office, of it being lost for good.

We must accept of course the democratic verdict of the Committee, and consider other ways of getting the problem resolved. At the moment we as a community feel we are being challenged to do our worst rather than co-operated with, but there are signs that the mindset is changing gradually.

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