Monday, 10 September 2012

Hounslow Community Groups Organise for Democracy

There is a fascinating debate going on over at the ChiswickW4 community forum about a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) which it appears the Labour council is preparing to foist upon a large chunk of the town in spite of what would seem to be massive opposition from most of the residents who are likely to be affected.

I'll not rehearse the details here. Suffice it to say that the Chiswick councillors are broadly supporting the residents (except that is for the one who got confused at a Scrutiny call-in meeting and voted the wrong way!), but as they are from the minority Conservative Group they are powerless to alter council policy - a situation which, of course, they have visited entirely upon themselves although they seem strangely reluctant to remind their constituents of this fact.

People in my part of the world have little personal interest in whether a CPZ goes ahead in Chiswick or not, but the wider principle of whether it is democratic or in any way desirable for a Lead Member who represents a completely different area to impose his will over that of the locals without reference either to them or to their councillors is of course one on which we might be expected to take a view.

As it is in Parking so it is in Planning, and there is widespread concern over the actions of the local authority in abolishing the Area Committees, overriding major requirements contained in the Statement of Community Involvement and the lack of resources being allocated to Planning Enforcement.

I am now able to reveal some information which until now has been subject to something of a voluntary embargo. As I write no fewer than 15 of the most influential community groups from across the borough (the ICG being one of them) have banded together to provide a co-ordinated community response to the steady erosion of our hard-fought democratic freedoms, most particularly in the area of Planning. As a result of persistent lobbying this group has already established a positive and useful ongoing dialogue with the Borough's Chief Executive Mary Harpley.

Naturally it's early days, but I would hope and expect that this huge new borough-wide movement might become the basis of an organised and organic community-based power borough-wide to hold the political groups to account and eventually, through one means or another, to wrest control of the council bureaucracy from the politicos and timeservers and to hand it back to the local people where it truly belongs.

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