District council forum labelled a “tick in the box exercise”

LAST week’s district council south forum has come under fire for being “staged” and just a “tick in the box exercise”.

Lib Dem Councillor Alan Dean said in his blog that members of the public were “seething with palpable anger” at the unprofessionalism of the event.

“I was disappointed people were not given enough opportunity to ask questions on the big subject which was the Local Development Framework,” he told the Reporter.

“There must have been more than 200 people there who wanted to participate in the discussion but they couldn’t because it was such a crammed agenda.

“The questions people were asking were not being answered properly and many saw it as just a tick in the box exercise for the district council.”

He added that the discussion was more controlled than free and open and criticised councillors for “hiding at the back of the room” instead of leading by example.

But Cllr John Salmon, who chaired the event, hit back at the claims, saying that everybody was given the chance ask questions and participate in an open discussion.

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“I admit the agenda was a bit lengthy and in future I have asked for only two items to be on it,” he said. “But the aim was to finish the meeting by 9.30pm and we finished 20 minutes early because nobody had any more questions.”

Uttlesford District Council held its south forum at Helena Romanes School in Dunmow last Tuesday evening (February 28) and the north equivalent at its offices in Saffron Walden on Thursday (March 1).

The idea of the forums was to offer residents the chance to hear what the council was doing and to ask the members and officers present questions.

High on the agenda was the housing consultation, which ended on Monday (March 5), while there was also information about plans for the Olympics and jubilee in the summer.

WHAT do you think about the forums? Did you think they helped the council engage with the public or were you left frustrated at not getting the answers you were looking for? How could they be improved? E-mail your thoughts to sam.tonkin@archant.co.uk