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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Do you think Ealing Council cares about what you think! Really?

Many residents, over many years, have complained that Ealing Council has either ignored their views or never asked what they think about important issues.
The Council is currently in the middle of a process where it will create a policy called a Local Development Framework (LDF). This will be the guide for what will be allowed or not when developers or others want to alter our borough. It will cover issues such as whether we want to see lots of large buildings or whether the Council might wish to see more housing instead of parks.
This is the most important set of documents Ealing Council will adopt for decades, as they will affect Ealing up to and beyond 2026. The Council has arranged to start what it calls a consultation process over the next few months. In reality though it is a few meetings where a handful of people will attend to discuss questions where the Council have already decided what the answers are.
There are only eight meetings, with only one about transport and none about the provision of heath or education services in Ealing. Very few people know about them (hence me using this opportunity to raise the profile of the meetings), which makes the process a charade. For more information please see the link:
The Liberal Democrats believe the Council should be far more proactive and consult residents and local businesses properly, in a way to really find what they want from our different town centres whether it be Greenford in the north of borough, to Southall in west, or Acton in the East.
A more proactive method would be to consult using a wider range of methods such as ward Forums; face-to-face surveys at residents’ homes; telephone surveys; street or shopping centre ‘intercepts’ and citizens’ juries.
The previous Conservative administration set up a scrutiny committee relating to the LDF. However, they decided they didn’t want any residents’ or other local groups to be formally involved, such as the Ealing Civic Society, Southall Community Alliance, or the Park Royal Partnership. That is arrogance and this “I know best” attitude will not do.
The Council recently pledged to set up an advisory body to guide the process.  Liberal Democrats have pressed and are waiting for this to be formed by the Labour-run Ealing Council.  If one is not set up soon, it is further evidence the Council does not want to hear views from its tax-payers.
Unless the Council addresses the shortcomings of the LDF consultation process, it will be seen as being fatally flawed. Without open discussion on these issues there must be serious doubt on whether Ealing is complying with the requirements of the legislation.
Ealing Council’s “Statement of Community Involvement” seems fine, but it is never followed through with the consultation that will yield a proper understanding of what Ealing needs and wants. Only the Liberal Democrats believe this is crucial.  Let us see some action now!

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