Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Public involvement at a public meeting.

Have you ever been involved in a conversation where you have conflicting views at the beginning and end up agreeing at the end?

How many rounds of communications does it take.

I would say that most of the time the 'oh I hadn't considered that' comes out in the first few exchanges. Once your get past about 10 each your not going to agree.

I was at a planning meeting at Wokingham Borough Council (just to see how inclusive I felt) and, knowing that the people talking in front of me are mostly in regular communication and had possibly discussed many of the matters before thought the consultation might take more of a 'Question Time' like approach.

But from what I can tell, if you are an objector, you must apply to get a share of a total of 3 minutes to object. Your slot will come after the parish council (who will probably object and say something similar to you to avoid loosing your vote next year).

Then the people supporting the project get to say their bit, the last word as it were, which may well have been altered to mitigate things you might have said.

And then . . . the 9 members of the planning comity who are selected by the Tory leader David Lee chat about it with the main representatives of the employed council.

As a sceptic I obviously suspect that there is some sort of agreement in advance. However, even without the pre-discuss, if there are any stand out questionable observation's the consensus seems to be that you have to sit there and bite your tongue.

I used to think it how silly it is in parliament when the back bencher's voice their disagreement with various animal noises, now I am not so sure. Our council meetings are stuffy, formulaic and... well... odd. Perhaps it is just a case of the 'no one knew how we should behave and therefore it evolved to whatever makes the leaders would like the most.

If you were to look at a top down view of a development on a field that appears more densely populated than the surrounding estates and the building control manager says, "You can see how it is in keeping with the rest of the area." and then rolls on while you at range try to count dots per area. What do you do to alert the 9 and those around you that you disagree? If most of the public in the room also feel that way perhaps 'the 9' should consider this a point worthy of expansion.

I would like to suggest that people at public meetings have red and green card sticks. And if something is said that you strongly agree with you put your green stick up. If a statement is disagreeable you put the red one up. This will not disrupt the all important flow, but at least if there is an apparent consensus amongst the public on an issue.

Otherwise Wokingham Borough Council "Have your say" simply does not exist.


  1. 'And then . . . the 9 members of the planning comity who are selected by the Tory leader David Lee chat about it with the main representatives of the employed council.'

    Kaz - appointments to the Planning Committee are done by proportional representation and represent the number of seats each party holds. It is not in the gift of the Leader of the largest party unlike the Executive which is.

  2. He chooses which Tories. I'm not sure if he chooses the two LibDems too. I had that impression from the council documentation I had seen before.

  3. Update. He only chooses the current 7 Tories.