Dear Editor, Your correspondent, Paul Kelly (Post letters, June 7), appears to be arguing that uprooting constituency committees from the local neighbourhoods they serve, moving them several miles away to the city centre and holding their meetings during the working day will make it easier for residents to be involved in local decision making.
He also appears to be unaware that the new rules put in place by Labour will have precisely the opposite effect of what he quite rightly wants – improved accountability – clearly stipulating as they do that from now on ‘the committees are not expected to engage directly with residents and communities’.
Indeed Sir Albert Bore’s new rules even go to the extent of dictating that furniture should be arranged “so as to promote discussions amongst members of the committee, rather than between the committee and the public”.
Going to the extent of actually configuring the meeting rooms so that councillors will be discouraged from facing the residents they represent will not “open up the committee rooms to citizens”, something that your correspondent is keen to see, but rather send out the message that councillors don’t want the “prying eyes” of the public watching them make decisions. I would agree with your correspondent, however, that the old-style constituency meetings were far from perfect.
The format allowed too little time for public discussion and it was often unclear to residents which areas were covered by the local committee and which were under the control of the Cabinet. (This last point, I recall, was something that your correspondent was particularly concerned about at the meetings that he attended. The new system, however, won’t make this any clearer).
And I agree – given the low turnout at the recent local elections we ought to be making it easier for residents to get involved in local democracy, not harder.
However, Labour’s plans to move “representatives back to the Council House”, something that your correspondent is in favour of, will have the effect of putting local decision making even further out of reach for most residents.
Councillor Philip Parkin, Sutton Trinity Ward