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Airbrushing of public questions at Arun District Council?

January 26, 2013 10 comments

Here is an example of how Arun District Council minutes public questions, as witnessed by me:

At Full Council on 9th January 2013 a rather nice lady (and with a razor sharp mind) stood up at the microphone and asked a very specific question about the lack of representation on Arun’s cabinet for the town of Littlehampton. The lady was very specific about the fact that Littlehampton was not represented at cabinet level and wanted to know why.

This is how her question was minuted

The Leader of the Council was asked a question, which had been submitted in advance of the meeting, regarding Cabinet Members and the areas that they represented.

This is how the response was minuted

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Mrs Brown, responded at the meeting by confirming the names of those Members who were Cabinet Members and she outlined the Wards that each of these Members represented.

Notice how the lack of cabinet representation for Littlehampton has been airbrushed from the minutes!! The question has been completely transformed.

This approach to the minuting of public questions has been going on for many years and with the full blessing of Arun’s councillors! The only thing that is certain is that Arun’s councillors will approve the minute as an accurate record of the meeting!

Is it any wonder that Arun and it’s councillors are so unpopular with the public they claim to represent?

Is the council’s 400 houses p.a. “preference” genuine or a sham?

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Arun District Council has confirmed that it received a copy of the first draft of the emerging Strategic Housing Market Assessment Update 2012  for Coastal West Sussex (SHMA) on 7th June 2012.

This was 13 days before the Full Council meeting of 20th June 2012, at which, the council approved the first draft of its emerging Local Plan for public consultation, including the council’s “preference” for a house building rate of 400 houses p.a.

This was 6 weeks before the commencement of the draft Local Plan public consultation on 19th July 2012.

The Cabinet Member for Planning and Infrastructure has confirmed that members of the Local Plan Sub-Committee received a briefing by consultants in May 2012 on some of the emerging conclusions in the SHMA and that Cabinet and non-Cabinet Members had access to the same information when voting at the Special Full Council meeting on 20th June 2012.

It seems that members of the council were fully aware of the essence of the emerging SHMA before they agreed the council’s “preference” for 400 houses p.a.

We now know that the SHMA recommends an annual house building rate of 575 houses p.a.

So was the council’s “preference” for 400 house p.a. genuine or was it a ploy to create “false hope” amongst the public?

Would it be better, from Arun’s point of view, if the public campaigned for a smaller housing number rather than talking about alternative strategic locations?

If Arun’s councillors made their decision for a “preference” of 400 houses p.a. with full knowledge that the SHMA was likely to recommend a much higher housing number then they cannot, at a later stage, use the SHMA as their justification for an increase in the housing numbers. They knew the essence of the SHMA when they set their “preference”.

So – was the recent draft Local Plan consultation, with its “preference” for a house building rate of 400 houses p.a. genuine or a sham?

Time will tell!