Exposed: Town Council’s sham consultation process

Draft minutes of a recent Bradley Stoke Town Council meeting appear to expose a deceitful attitude to the public consultation process.

A resident attending last week’s Full Council meeting queried why the agenda indicated that discussion of issues surrounding the relocation of the Council’s offices would be held in private.

Draft minutes of the 17th March meeting, recently published on the Council’s website, record the following response:

“Councillor Forsyth explained that these matters were in very early stages of discussion, once decisions had been made, the public would be fully consulted.”

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  1. Dear Editor,

    Whilst I am not in the habit of regularly seeking to criticise your publication, and accept that the actions of council and individual councillors will from time to time be written up in a manner which we may find disagreeable I must register my dismay at your journal plus article “Exposed: Town Council’s sham consultation process”.

    This article with its sensationalist headline appears to be little more than a deliberate attempt to embarrass the council and those town councillors working voluntarily for the good of the community.

    Whilst I accept that the wording of the draft minute is perhaps open to misinterpretation the key point is that the public will be “fully consulted” and as you were present throughout the exchange to which the minute relates you will be aware that the Mayor made the position of council in this regard quite clear.

    At present council are still considering the feasibility of building our own offices and consultation at this stage would not be meaningful. Once we have ruled out the impossible and fully costed the proposal we will put our case to the public. Then, and only then, will a final decision be made.

    Yours faithfully

    Cllr Robert Jones
    Press Spokesperson, Bradley Stoke Town Council

  2. Rob,

    Sadly, the Council’s past record on the “office relocation” issue doesn’t bear out what you are saying.

    I don’t recall any public consultation being made before the Council announced, in September 2008, that it had agreed terms for moving the office to the Willow Brook Centre.

    In fact, the run up to that decision by Council was characterised by a total news blackout. The press and public were excluded from all discussions and the Council refused bluntly to offer any comment on the matter.

    Worse still, when Council later backed out of the Willow Brook deal (in December 2008), the decision was made at a meeting of Council that had not even been advertised to the public, as required by the Council’s constitution.

    We learn now that the Council has chosen to build a new office in the car park of the Jubilee Centre. The public had no say in that decison, just as they had no say in the earlier proposed move to the Willow Brook Centre.

    Any public consultation now will surely be nothing more than a token box-ticking gesture.

    So the comment attributed to Cllr Forsyth in the recent minutes, which you say is open to misinterpretation, is in fact “spot on” in its literal sense.


  3. Moving to the Town Centre if cost effective had been a long standing objective of the Town Council long before the current administration took over in 2007. Even so it was included in our Strategic Performance Plan, consultation for which is still referred to on your public consultations page.

    Discussions were held behind closed doors as the terms of the potential lease agreement were commercially sensitive and negotiations with the centre could have been compromised by public comment. In the end, as I explained very publically to a safer and stronger group meeting at the time, evidence was presented to council to suggest building our own offices could potentially be funded for the same equivalent cost as renting at the centre and this would provide long term savings for the taxpayer.

    As I have already said we are currently looking into our options further and will consult before a final decision is taken. It is totally incorrect to say we have chosen to build a new office in the car park of the Jubilee Centre, it is merely a potential opportunity which is being explored. If the logistics, and crucially the finances, work out then we will consult before we commit to the project.

    In the meantime if your readers have views they would like to express on the matter they can comment here, contact their councillor or address the next council meeting. All of which will undoubtedly get our attention.