Monday, 2 November 2009

Consultation, Consultation, Consultation!

Thursday 29th October

There's been a lot of talk recently about the Ian Goodchild Centre (IGC). As part of Surrey Heath Borough Council's commitment to getting value for taxpayer's money, the IGC, as part of the discretionary services budget, was part of a number of facilities to be considered by a working group set up to determine how such servces across the borough might be improved and combined to the benefit of both users and taxpayers.

While I openly commended the work of the working group, I had reservations about how elements of the service had been considered and spoke up at an Executive meeting in September 2009 to express my concerns. Seemingly, other members felt similarly and the matter was subsequently 'called in' before a special meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee for further discussion on Wednesday night.

Before a packed chamber, the calling in members were permitted to present their cases for calling the decision in for further scrutiny, with the folioholder and leader's representative then permitted to speak before the committe members were able to discuss what had been tabled.

The one thing that had been patently clear to me since September was the fact that the matter had required further consultation, particularly with the mainly elderly users and their staff. In the lack of that consultation, rumours had abounded about closures, redundancies and a number of unknowns that frankly nobody needs, least of all the elderly users a number of whom were clearly visibly distressed at the idea of a closure. This was why I felt it necessary to call for some sort of further consultation with these groups, whether in the forum of a public meeting or a further working group where the user groups and staff were properly represented.

Fortunately, after a lot of debate and then confusion as to proceedure, common sense was observed, and the committee voted to recommend that the Executive continue the working groups with such user groups involved.

Hurrah, I say.

Not so much a victory for democracy, but a victory for common sense. All that remains is for us to ensure that the recommendations are now observed.

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