Last Sunday we mentioned two meetings coming up – the West Area Forum on Tuesday, and Rawreth Parish Council last night.
They were two very different meetings.
The West Area Forum was really very disappointing from a public point of view. Leaving aside District Councillors, Parish councillors and a couple of councillors’ husbands, there seemed to be only one genuine member of the public there!
This gentleman had come along because of the District Council’s plans to relocate Rayleigh Sports and Social Club. You would have thought that the ruling Conservatives would have warmly welcomed the chap because as the one member of the public who had turned up he had saved them from total embarassment. But instead he was subjected to tough questioning by a senior Tory councillor on who he was and what his connection was with the club. Many people would have been intimidated by this but he stood his ground.
One person present told us later that they thought this was quite disgusting. The meeting was over in less than an hour, the two police officers who had come along barely had a chance to say a word and the two visitors from the health services didn’t get to speak at all.
The council chamber can be a very intimidating place – even some councillors are nervous about speaking. We are not going to have the public getting involved unless things are changed.
Meanwhile Rawreth Parish Council showed how it can be done. About a dozen members of the public came along- and most of them spoke. People get a friendly greeting, feel they are being listened to and get a hot drink and a biscuit at half-time. There were serious questions asked. The two police present (different ones from the previous evening) discussed local policing issues in a very relaxed way, and there was actually some laughter. The chap from Anglian Water, Paul Torvill, had driven down from Peterborough to talk about the sewage works and then stayed to listen. He was even able to help on another matter, by offering to provide some drainage maps to help with problems in Rawreth Lane.