Thursday, July 24, 2014

And now for something completely different – Area Forums

In the wake of the abolition of Area Committees here in sunny Redbridge the MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott (pictured right), has decided not to wait for the new Redbridge council administration to put their “Local Forums” in place and has published his plans to hold his own “Area Forums” for the Ilford North Parliamentary constituency.

There will be two “Areas” based on the old Area 3 & 4 Committees with the wards to the west tagged on. So we have Bridge, Fairlop, Fullwell and Hainault wards in one Area and Aldborough, Barkingside, Clayhall and Roding in the other Area.

Lee said:
“In the initial period, running to the end of this council year, the aim is to hold two meetings for each of the forums. Two local venues at each geographic end of the constituency would be selected.

These new Forums are a replacement for the abandoned Area Committees. We must do all that we can to encourage wide spread local involvement. Community groups, as well as individuals, would be able to make formal representations, give suggestions or ask questions. Each Forum would also be open to the local press.

The plan would be that each of the forums will be sponsored and have their own (modest) budgets that they could use to provide some support to local events and to cover any running costs”.
So we, at least in Ilford North, appear to be getting two lots of Forums. These above will be less than once a month; discounting August there are 8 months left of the municipal year and we can expect 4 meetings, so one every two months on average. And because these forums are confined to Ilford North the locations of the meetings are much more likely to be reasonably accessible to most of the residents. However, like the council proposals there are some vital logistics still to sort out, not least dates, times and venues for those of us who lead busy lives and like to plan our calendar some way ahead.

Then there is the format of the meetings, who attends and who gets to be Chair. There will be no formal requirement for any elected Redbridge Councillor to attend, although one could reasonably expect a 3-line whip on those who happen to be Conservatives. What the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors make of this remains to be seen – may we live in interesting times.

Here’s Nat King Cole, "There may be trouble ahead ....."


  1. Sounds great, but shouldn't this be led by Paul Canal, or is Lee thinking beyond the next parliamentary election when he may be running to be a councillor.

  2. Anon 1 has a point here. Why is Lee Scott interfering in what is essentially councillors business. Surely as leader of the Shadow Cabinet it is Paul Canal territory and he should lead this initiative. If it is being run by Lee Scott, then there cannot be a three line whip as he has no authority over councillors, although I would be very suprised if they did not want to take part. I think It's all very strange. Over to you Lee.

  3. I would be very surprised indeed if Conservative councillors were to fail to attend these sessions - and not in the least surprised if the Labour councillors (particularly one) attend on a regular basis.

    Lee Scott has responded to Redbridge Labour's crude silencing of the local voice. I hardly think he will have down this without the agreement of Paul Canal.

    The previous two posts were from socialists stirring it up no doubt.

  4. Did you use the entrails of an animal or a crystal ball Mr Hickey? How could you have any knowledge of what Paul Canal knows or not. If Lee Scott has the agreement of Paul why is his name not mentioned in the article. An easy couple of words surely. As stated, it is not in Lee Scott's remit as an MP to interfere in the policies of his councillors, unless there is a parliamentary concern. Lee Scott should concentrate on the country as a whole not on a backwater.

    1. Could I remind everybody about our Comment Policy.

      I agree with Morris. I think it is highly unlikely that an MP, or a prospective MP, would do anything such as this without the support of their local party, including any elected councillors.

      And please Anonymouses, can you at least use a pseudonym so we all know which Anon is which. Otherwise it can get very confusing.

    2. Thanks B21. Long experience tends to suggest that anonymous comments come mostly (but not always) from those wishing to be abusive - as in the above instance.

  5. A few observations on this if I may. Superficially this looks like a generous offer, but look just below the surface and the mechanics of its operation need explaining. Lee Scott says individuals and groups will be able to "make formal representations". To whom? Council Leaders? Cabinet members? Council officers? ...No, because they won't be there. Individuals/groups will be able to give suggestions. Again, to whom? The same people who aren't there? Ask questions? Again, of whom?
    And then there's the question of sponsorship. From who? If the attendees at the forums are to feel reallly involved and empowered stakeholders any sponsorship would need to be unconditional and independently administered, very rare (but not impossible) in today's world. And by what process will the forum officers be elected/appointed? In the absence of LBR leaders, officers, administrators etc. what authority/power etc will said officers have to pursue the forums aims?
    Lots to tthink about and do before the first meeting, I think.

  6. '...sponsored...' ? By whom? And would this be a non-political sponsorship? Or would it be, to use Councillor Canal's own words describing the abolition of Area Committees (see last week's Recorder) 'A destruction of democracy'? (The grammar's a bit dodgy but the meaning is clear, I hope.)

  7. My thanks B21 for your intervention and as a former Conservative Councillor i can say that Lee Scott does and has always spoken with the Leader of the Conservative Group.
    Turning to the point made by The Portly one, in that because there won't be any Cabinet Member there, in that case why did Labour turn up for the last 4 years or more at Areas 5, 6 & 7 as they had the majority on those and not a Cabinet Member amongst them?
    At the moment, residents are left with NO forums at all, in any shape or form. The Administration has 'delegated' the process to officers which is all very well but isn't decision making one (the main?) reason why people stand to get elected and why residents cast their vote?

    The current Administration don't seem to want to make their OWN decisions but are cheerfully delegating virtually everything to officers who are NOT elected and not accountable in the way elected Councillors are.

    Cllr Athwal's comments in the Guardian about Cllrs not being fully trained or capable of deciding planning applications are bogus and a poor excuse; as far as I am aware the Borough complied with Govt guidelines on annual training on planning applications; plus one of the top planning lawyers from outside the Borough was brought in each year to ensure we DID know what we were doing. Given residents' misgivings about planning applications and enforcement in this Borough (something the current Administration tried to exploit when in opposition), it does nothing to boost the trust of the public that cases will be heard and seen to be heard in public where upon everyone can have their say.

    Vanessa Cole

    1. I could name at least one planning officer (known also to Vanessa) whom I would not trust to plan a night out in the pub.