Whatever happened to public consultation





There is one thing you can be sure of with Government. And that is that their attitude towards the people they are supposed to serve stinks.


Take for example their attitude towards a group of Staffordshire residents who have been locked in a battle with their local council. It’s a battle which the council are most likely going to win. It is about the building of a huge sports hall for a special school where they live.


Very few things are black and white and there really are two sides to most stories. In this one it isn’t a simple case of nimbyism versus new school facilities. The first that the residents learned about the major construction work was when they saw and heard the diggers at work. There was no consultation with them. The authorities communicated with everyone they wanted to communicate with – they were all in it together (except for the residents).


A compromise could so easily been reached right at the start simply through dialogue. It was not as if the residents even wanted to fight.


Things got worse when the residents complained. They asserted their right to film a parish council meeting but the Councillors weren’t used to it and called an abrupt end to the meeting.


Once again there was a communication breakdown. And it was always the residents who had to take the initiative. When the issue began to get wider attention their MP Gavin Williamson issued a press release saying he really did sympathize with the residents’ concerns about night-time noise pollution and other disruption. In the release he more or less blamed the district council.


He said: “I am very concerned about the process that has been followed in relation to this application, as it seems a total nonsense that people who live adjacent to the development site have not been consulted in this application. Even if the proper process has been followed, I don’t believe good practice has been.


And as usual each council department blamed the other for the lack of public consultation. More communication breakdown.


So what’s next? The residents are meeting the massive, wealthy Wolverhampton based construction company Carillion simply to ask for nuisance mitigation guarantees. Carillion have a very cosy relationship with Government and are often contracted to build projects, for example the new Birmingham Library, work with the MOD and contracts in the Middle East. They build hospitals and schools as well. Although some people think some of their extra-curricular activities are a bit dubious.


Will they be able to come to some kind of mutual compromise? Only if Carillion fulfill their much-trumpeted values of openness and collaboration.


The residents have always been willing to talk. 

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