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Decision over replacement for axed Area Committees due next week

PUBLISHED: 17:58 25 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:15 26 August 2014

Jas Athwal, leader of the council

Jas Athwal, leader of the council

Archant

Discussions over proposals to replace Redbridge Council’s Area Committees with new Local Forums will take place next week.

Plans for the new forums were first mooted back in July as a replacement for the old-style Area Committees, which Redbridge Council has claimed were out of date, poorly attended and lacked participation.

Next Tuesday September 2, councillors on the Policy and Resources Committee will decide whether to go ahead with the new Local Forums which – if approved – would start in the autumn at Redbridge Central Library.

Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, said: “Local Forums are very much about local residents. We really want residents to attend and talk to us about things that are important to them.

“We are committed to involving local people and communities in decision making and would very much like them to help shape the content and focus of these forums.”

The current proposals would see Local Forums combine formal and informal opportunities for residents to raise questions, ideas, issues and concerns with relevant people and organisations.

They would be held every month, in the evening, at venues across the borough.

There would also be two meetings a year held during the day, at Wanstead Library and Fullwell Cross Library, to give as many residents as possible the opportunity to have their say.

The meetings would have two elements, a ‘market place’ and a ‘question time’.

The ‘market place’ would allow residents to browse stalls staffed by council officers, councillors and partner and voluntary sector organisations to discuss issues such as planning, parking, cleaning, housing and payments and benefits.

The more formal ‘question time’ would see senior council officers and councillors respond to questions from residents.

Questions could either be submitted in advance or taken from the floor on the night.

If residents were unable to attend then the answer to their question would be sent to them.

If it becomes clear at the meeting there is a lot of interest in a particular topic, then time would be given over to discuss that in more detail.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal and ward councillors would have their own stalls to deal with confidential or sensitive issues, avoiding residents having to divulge personal information.

“We don’t always want it to be the council setting the agenda, we want residents to have their say,” he added.

He said Redbridge Food Bank, Work Redbridge, Redbridge Council for Voluntary Services and Liberty Credit Union had already agreed to participate in the forums, as well as the Police.

“These groups have a vested interest in the borough and are helping to make Redbridge a place we can all be proud of. They will be on hand to talk about the important work they are doing,” he said.

Cllr Athwal also said the council expected forums to be “a lot more interactive” than area committees.

A rolling live log of all outstanding issues from the forums would also be published on redbridge.gov.uk so residents could see how they were being resolved.

If introduced, a review of the new approach would be carried out after a year to ensure that the new arrangements were meeting the needs of residents and the council.

Do you think Local Forums will be an improvement on Area Committees? Share your views - tweet @ilfordrecorder or email laura.burnip@archant.co.uk.

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