I attended the recent INWAC Meeting on 2nd April, 09 and came away extremely disappointed by the way in which the meeting was conducted. There were a number of points that showed the behaviour of some INWAC Councillors to be unseemly.
1. The Chairman of the meeting, Councillor Monaghan, was curt to several members of the public when he forcibly prevented proper debate concerning BBQs on Woodhouse Moor in the Open Forum. If these meetings are intended to involve the public in the consultation process, then this one failed. Large numbers of the public attended the opening but walked out feeling disenfranchised because they were prevented from speaking.
2. At the last INWAC meeting, held in February, a considerable amount of time was given over to the Open Forum to discuss 4 different local matters; 3 of which had little or no impact on the majority of Inner North West residents. Yet at this meeting a time block was put on BBQ’s, an issue which has relevance to and an impact on far more people than for example, the BMX track!
3. Councillor Atha made clear and well argued points against the proposal to authorise BBQs and was shouted down in the brouhaha style used in parliamentary politics at Westminster. Points of order were flying about as political scores were being settled by Councillors and the public were left totally unclear about why Councillor Atha’s proposal was ousted.
4. Councillor Ewens stated that a public consultation exercise was in process about BBQs so debate at this meeting was unnecessary. The fact is that most local, permanent residents have been excluded from the ballot about BBQs due to the undemocratic methods used to illicit opinion. That point was clearly made by Martin Staniforth (Chair of NHPNA) and accepted b y Councillor Matthews.
5. Permanent residents, who will be paying for the designated BBQ pitches and for the clear-up operations from the BBQs /bonfires that will inevitably be lit elsewhere, have not been consulted effectively. Yet the transient population of students, none of whom pay Council Tax and many of whom are not on the electoral roll in Leeds, have been enabled to voice their views freely. Consequently the results of the ballot are likely to be skewed.
6. In terms of the balance of arguments, although Councillor Matthews was the only member to actually voice his support for authorising BBQs on the Moor, one was left thinking that he was backed by the other Lib-Dem Councillors. He seemed to be saying that it was easier to take the line of least resistance to the hooligans who wantonly despoil Woodhouse Moor with their bonfires by providing them a designated area. The Council seems to be able to enforce a BBQ ban in other Leeds parks to counter the potential of environmental damage caused by fire. Why is this park different and why should it not be offered the same protection against damage as those in more affluent areas such as Roundhay?
7. Finally, the acoustics in the Jubilee Room were poor and it was difficult to hear what was being said by many of the Councillors and officers. This could have been rectified had a public address system been used or more simply, each individual should stand up and turn to address the public in a clear voice.
Overall I was not left with a very favourable impression of the way in which some INWAC Councillors use their elected power to represent those of us who are permanent residents in the city, who pay their Council Tax and who exercise their vote because they are on the electoral register.
Marian Smith, 19th April 09