Area Committee Review 'Missed Opportunity'

Opposition blast changes to local decision making process


Cllr. Thompson "a report cobbled together by a small handful of councillors and consultants from outside the council"

Review of the structure of area committees meetings to improve community engagement - full report

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Changes to the Area Committee system in Hounslow Borough have received a frosty opposition from the Conservative opposition group with their leader branding them as "one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can remember".

Hounslow Council say that the new format will allow residents to get more involved in local issues after the changes were agreed at the meeting of Hounslow’s Borough Council on Tuesday night. They are being driven in part by the new powers given to communities under the Localism Act and other national legislation.

Cllr Sachin Gupta, Hounslow’s cabinet member for communications and communities, said: “Local democracy is all about allowing local people to influence or make local decisions, and the change to the new Area Forum format will do exactly that.

“This new approach will give residents the chance to get more actively involved in service and policy development that could affect their neighbourhoods, as well as engaging with other partner organisations across the borough such as the Police, health services, business and the voluntary sector.”

Cllr Peter Thompson, Leader of the Conservative Group, stated, “This report was one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can remember on my time on the Council. Everyone agrees that Area Committees are a vitally important part of local democracy and that they need to work better.”

"However what we were presented with was a report cobbled together by a small handful of councillors and consultants from outside the council. No one bothered to ask the vast majority of councillors, many of whom have been on these committees since 2000, nor the co-opted members across the borough who give up their time to work with councillors us these bodies, nor the numerous residents and residents groups who have taken part in the work of the Area Committees over the years."

Cllr. Thompson was particularly critical of publication of the report before the online consultation had closed calling it the "the biggest joke of the night".

He added, "So much for claiming to be a Council that is, according to their website 'committed to consulting as widely as possible when making decisions and we will actively listen to the views of the public and others with an interest in the services we provide'".

The Conservatives were also questioned the decision to give an extra £2,500 allowance to
each Area Vice Chair to serve as the “Community Champions” to work on the Localism agenda.

The council has five area committees: Central Hounslow, Chiswick, Heston and Cranford, Isleworth and Brentford, and West, which meet monthly to discuss local issues.

June 22, 2012