MANY residents will now be aware, and those who are not aware soon will be, that the Labour group intent to scrap local Area Assemblies.
It was stated at the cabinet meeting this week that scrutiny accepted this proposal unanimously. This is not true, in fact at the last scrutiny meeting I objected to the minutes of the previous meeting which totally excluded and ignored the comments I made. Which were that I did object to these proposals most strongly, and indeed, a member of the Labour group also expressed concern? Last Monday was therefore the second time that objections had conveniently been airbrushed out.
The reasons for my objection to the new proposed community model are as follows. The Rotherham South Area Assembly is well attended; it provides a platform for residents from multiple wards to come together on a monthly basis to express their views and concerns about what is going on in their local area. The meeting is also attended by ward councillors from across the wards and provides the opportunity to hear from the public, and in particular, residents beyond their own specific ward.
What the Labour group do not like, and do not wish to hear, is discontent, and even worse, they object to the way people express their concerns.
I have heard Labour councillors saying that people come to the meetings only to tell us what is wrong. Some people may not be so eloquent and could use less inflammatory language, but if that is how they feel then we as councillors have a duty to listen. If the meetings are not there for people to tell us what is wrong, pray tell us what they are for? For example, at a recent AA, a lady from Eastwood informed us about the loss in value to her house as a result of the current state of Eastwood and lack of a coherent integration policy. She accused Labour councillors of ruining people’s lives. This is not what Labour want to hear.
Their response is to get rid of AAs and impose a new community model; and I accept that there are a couple points in the proposal that improve accessibility to council officers. But there is no provision whatsoever for bringing people across wards together. We are told that if we wish we can still have joint meetings, however, there is no structure or framework in the proposal to support this, merely a suggestion that such meetings can take place by agreement. In other words this will not happen.
I am not opposed to change, in fact, throughout my working career I have been involved in restructuring and changing programmes. But it is necessary to ensure that such implementations are an improvement on what preceded it, covering all the existing capabilities and building on them. Not used as a vehicle to hide away from reality. I suggest that if you believe as I do that AAs should not be scrapped and that you wish to retain some method of making your views known then you must band together and raise petitions in your area, bring them to council and make your feelings known.
Allen Cowles, UKIP Sitwell