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I went to the first Crouch End, Hornsey and Stroud Green Area Forum and Committee on 27th June and have since received the email quoted below. I hope everyone who attended and left an email address has. Some of the comments I would make in response are already set out here.
First and foremost I'd say that greater numbers of the public must be encouraged to attend. By my rough count I reckon more than half the number attending were either councillors or council officers. I don't know what it takes to get the public to turn out, but whatever it is should be applied. I'd consider almost anything - dancing girls, Chip'N'Dales, ribbon cutting by an Eastender, an exciting agenda, refreshments of which you actually want to partake, a Twitter campaign, holding it in a room in a pub, handing out free copies of the Haringey People, remote participation over Skype, etc, etc.
Next the agenda must be exciting. For the first meeting I can forgive the organisers for ensuring a full hour. This avoided any awkward silences. But this is a public forum. The means by which the public drive the agenda must be evident both so that the public know how to do it, and in the resulting list of topics. The second agenda should reflect this.
Each item on the agenda should be the subject of a lively debate. I don't think the format of the first meeting encouraged this. Officers of the council are duty bound to be accurate and comprehensive, they will get into trouble if they omit or misrepresent. Councillors are aware of many facets of an argument and have briefing papers which raise related issues which they have to consider. The public, who surely should own the forum section of the meeting, perhaps want something other than accuracy, complete coverage, and taking everything into account. For myself, I'd like to see at least half the Forum given over to Soapbox, followed by a debate on each item. The presentation format followed by three questions at a time tends rather to contain any element of debate.
Finally (for the moment) I think my next soapbox may be about the word "succinct". It should only take a few seconds.
Thank you for taking the time to attend the new Crouch End, Hornsey and
Stroud Green Area Forum and Committee.
The Forum needs to evolve and grow as a means for the community to interact
with the council and local councillors. I hope that the Veiola item (waste
management) and question and answer session has started to lead the way.
The pot hole item lost it's way somehow, the
key point is to ensure that the specific pot hole funding is spent on
filling pot holes.
It is essential that there is information exchange and that a dialogue
occurs about council services and the environment that affects local
residents and traders. Items raised in the Forum are to be summarised at
the Committee, discussed, noted and/or actioned. As we move forward a
feedback or reporting back loop will develop. The development of Area Plans
will be exciting but I am conscious that we must not get buried under or
tied up with statistics, the plan needs to have a positive local impact.
My Questions to you are what did you think of the first Forum/Committee and
how can we improve it?