Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Area forum meetings & Neighbourhood Governance

Tonight I attended the North West Mitcham Area Forum meeting in my capacity as a member of the Neighbourhood governance task force. In terms of attendance it was again very poor, six members of the public, both councillors and officers outnumbered both.

Last week at my own forum we did slightly better with about 20 members of the public but this after widespread distribution of publicity to the local area.

Across Merton attendance has generally been very poor with the exception of North Wimbledon area forum. The problem is also not unique to Merton, it is an issue in many other authorities about how to increase engagement.

In my own ward I've had attendance of over 100 at public meetings, if an issue is big enough people will get engaged and come along. Maybe issue based meetings a more sensible format?

As a Council we do have to ask ourselves questions about the future of area forums and whether it would be better to just have ward level meetings. This is just one of the options we will need to consider. As a Council, area fourms have been used for consultation purposes, one of the main issues tonight was Mitcham Area forum was the revisions to the Mitcham planning guidance, I do not think asking six people is a good way of conducting consultation or a wide cross-section of opinion.

I would be interested in hearing about views from other areas where Councils have engaged people, the model is clearly not working in Merton and we need a better system.


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