This is the report from the chair of the Vision Group’s Futures Forum chair, who attended the District Council’s stakeholder event on Knowle relocation last Friday:
No press were present. The meeting confirmed my sense that they wanted to get us on the inside p…ing out, or, to use management speak, form a partnership going forward with key stakeholders, who should have been flattered at being invited into their discussions.
Diviani put it clearly: “The die is cast.” No re-examination of capital costs, energy savings etc. but future examination of staff reorganisation, devolution, cooperation with other councils etc. Asked about the democratic deficit in their decision making process he reminded us that we have a representative democracy. He did not mention that one of the main demands of the Chartists 180 years ago was that our elected delegates should be instantly recallable. But that is something we can continue to aim for of course.
On the topic of democracy, one senior cabinet minister spent the coffee break chatting affably to me and confided how frustrating it is when you know what has to be done but there are all the delays involved in the consultative process and democracy.
At the end of the meeting we asked how the Council might avoid the risk of such widespread disaffection with their decisions as would render the district ungovernable (cf. Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, etc.) and Richard Cohen said this would require good communication which he defined as putting out the information and the arguments. This does miss the point that communication is a two way process, that listening to people can give insights into better ways of working and improve decisions by harnessing the creative wisdom and local knowledge of the people the council serves, or, to use management speak, its customers.
It is very sad – the relocation will require a reorganisation of how and where services are delivered. ITC is an important part of this but no magic bullet. We tried to tell them this could be, not a risk but, an opportunity for a more inclusive way of working at community level, but, not unexpectedly, they would not listen and could not hear.
“News is what they don’t want you to know. Everything else is advertising.” (Randolph Hearst)