Thursday 27 February 2014

South Kilburn anger as Council denies them a voice on being dumped with ventilation shaft

A recurring theme of this blog has been the lack of democracy and poor consultation in matters involvng Brent Council: the views of library users over the transformation project, Willesden Green residents over the redevelopment of the library site, human rights campaigners over Veolia's multi-million public realm contract and more recently the denial of residents' requests to speak at Council meetings on matters that affect them.

Here a South Kilburn tenant outlines the latest case of 'democracy denied'.

Last year Brent Council changed the rules so that residents can no longer address full Council meetings about issues of concern, however much support they have. The claim is that this is unnecessary, since petitioners can address the committee meetings or Executive where the issues are discussed, and there are all sorts of consultations where there views can be heard. 
Even when such opportunity exists – committees and consultation forums – this is inadequate, since it is only when an issue comes to full Council that all Councillors are present to hear the issues.
But what happens when an issue comes to full Council without going to any committee or consultation beforehand? Isn’t it obvious that in such a situation those affected should be heard? It would be a simple matter of suspending Council standing orders for this to happen
Far from it. A report is going to Full Council on Monday (March 3rd) about the affect of the HS2 Bill on Brent. This report notes that the HS2 Bill allows for the acquisition of 2 blocks of (Council) flats and St Mary’s school in South Kilburn, and also calls on HS2 to move the planned ventilation shaft, currently proposed to be next to Queens Park station to a site next to St Mary’s school and those flats.
That report has not gone to any committee or the Executive. Affected residents were not informed of its existence by any Councillor or Council Officer, despite their Tenants and Residents Association asking for over 2 years now how they would be affected by HS2 and Brent Council being unable or unwilling to provide them with answers. Residents received recorded letters from HS2 last year saying it might want to acquire their property, and still Brent Council was unable to provide advice on what this might mean. And, of course, residents have not been consulted on their attitude to having the shaft moved next door. This in a situation where residents have made numerous complaints about the effect of living on a building site – being in the middle of regeneration with all the dirt and disruption involved.
Yet despite all this, Councillors are denying residents the right to put their views to the Council meeting. There have been attempts to fob them off by saying that their Councillors are able to speak and represent their views. Some of those saying this have no idea whether the Councillors and TRA have the same view on the issues concerned! But the very idea is patronising – who better to put their views forward than residents themselves, especially when so directly affected.


Meg Howarth said...

Bravo! Well-said. The arrogance of elected politicians - representative democracy rapidly reaching its sell-by date!

Anonymous said...

Brent held a meeting for Westminster Residents about the vents shaft and not once held a meeting for its own residents who were living with the HS2 threat.
As the song says - Its all about the Money, Money, Money,
Not about its residents.

Meg Howarth said...

It's only just sunk in how truly appalling this is. I trust Brent will do the RIGHT THING and suspend council standing orders for Monday's meeting. The residents must be allowed to speak for themselves.