This report gives cause for grave concern. Not only is it tellingly sub-literate in its writing (I take it that Officers who cannot distinguish illicit from elicit are likely to be illicit in their dealings, because they know no better) but it begs questions from start to finish.
Executive Summary #3 : ‘The Council has received complaints from 20 households…’
Does this mean that 20 households formally complained? In writing for example?
Were the reports from local activists, sent to Nicole Jackson, taken into account?
Was the show of hands at a public meeting with Councillors present taken into account, which, if representative, would suggest that significantly more than 50% of local residents had not received the questionnaire?
How were some fraction of 10,000 households supposed to complain, when they didn’t know they had anything to complain about?
Are we really to believe that 9,999 or, at worst, as few as 9,990 were delivered?
Even on a good day, that wouldn’t happen. It’s reminiscent of Romania under Ceausescu, when he always got 99% of the popular vote. Do Council Officers think we’re fools?
Background Information #2.3: ‘The opposition has been expressed very clearly… alongside support for the proposition from other members of the public.’ Who precisely? In the extensive correspondence in the YEP engendered by this issue, precisely one correspondent has supported the proposition, and he is known to be a Lib.Dem. activist, and prospective candidate for the HP&W ward. If Council Officers know of other ‘support’, would they tell us what it is?
#2.4: ‘…what is traditionally looked on as a popular activity…’ Tradition is a very important notion. That it should be appropriated to justify the destruction of public property makes us feel sick. Perhaps the writer of this document might be asked to define ‘traditionally’ and ‘popular’? (But actually this is just sloppy thinking, and another manifestation of Liberalism Lite. What the citizens of Leeds need is a bit of intelligence from their Councillors and Officers.)
#2.5: Things cannot be more or less ‘aesthetic’, any more than they can be more or less unique. Could we have an account by the writer of what is meant (preferably using the English language)?
#2.6 activity is conducted in the allocated area…: ‘…enforcement emphasis changes from trying to stop barbecues to requesting the activity is conducted in the allocated area…’ ‘Requesting’ is very nice. Presumably local Councillors and Senior Officers of Parks & Countryside will stroll around doing the ‘requesting’? We wish. Even if they did, we wish them luck. We’ve tried a bit of ‘requesting’ ourselves, as ordinary citizens: the response wasn’t very pleasant.
‘The concept and design…has been extensively discussed with the Woodhouse Moor Multi-Agency Forum.’ From which local community-groups were excluded. Why?
Main Issues #3.1: Leave aside obvious solecisms re. which we’ve made our point (Freudian slip possibly?): ‘The consultation exercise was not designed as a formal referendum’. Yes it was. It was Yes or No (and see below.) Sure, there was room for comment, but the paper declared roundly that there was no room for adjustment or compromise. Incidentally, no deadline was given, which surely invalidates it immediately?
‘The consultation commenced on 20 March and it is anticipated that responses from all stakeholders will be received by the end of June.’ So why, though only as a result of challenge, were residents informed of a deadline of the last week of April?
#3.4: ‘The questionnaire…asked respondents whether they wanted a designated barbecue area or not.’ See above, #3.1., ‘…not designed as a formal referendum.’ Can somebody explain the contradiction?
#3.6: This whole paragraph is so astonishing, even by the standards of LCC, that we scarcely know where to begin. Let’s not pick through it – though we can and will if you really want – let’s just say that LCC asked DBS if it had done the job. DBS said it had, surprise surprise, and that’s good enough for LCC. So, DBS tells the truth, and local residents are liars? We’d have to be terribly well organised liars to lie so consistently, wouldn’t we? Whereas wouldn’t you agree that a company needs only one person to lie on its behalf?
Implications for Council Policy etc #4.1: ‘The consultation exercise is an important prerequisite…’ Since the consultation exercise is known to be flawed (no deadline published, manifest opportunities for multiple voting, the factual certainty of incomplete delivery etc) then ‘a designated barbecue area on Woodhouse Moor’ cannot be established, I assume? Unless of course ‘planning permission be [not] required’, in which case why are we all wasting our time?
Legal and Resource Implications #5.3: ‘The costs [sic] of the consultation exercise was £2,467…’ At a public meeting, Cllr Ewens estimated it at £10,000; none of the Councillors present questioned the figure. Do we take it that she and they were all wrong by several miles? Do we take it that our Councillors are clueless? Or do we take it that the authors of this paper are misrepresenting the budget?
#5.5: This becomes repetitive. See above. But since we are down to single cases: the non-delivery to our own address owed nothing to ‘access difficulties’.
We have here 22 begged questions in a 4pp document. A triumph of incompetence by any standards. We expect an answer to all 22 before the next meeting of the Scrutiny Board. We are citizens and voters and it is our right.
We are pleased to know that the Scrutiny Board referred this report for further consideration. We trust that our comments may assist the Board in its further deliberations.
Report of the Director of Development, 9th June 2009