‘Local forums’ formally agreed by Redbridge Council policy committee
22:55 02 September 2014
Redbridge councillors tonight agreed a plan to replace area committees with “local forums”.
The decision was made by the council’s Policy and Resources Service Committee, and will see the introduction of a new form of public engagement in the borough.
Old-style area committees held regular meetings in seven zones around Redbridge.
They gave power to non-cabinet council members to make certain decisions in those areas, but the newly-elected Labour council had criticised them as being out-of-date and lacking participation.
Following a debate which saw criticism of last-minute changes to the meeting agenda and disagreement over the cost of refreshments, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal told the Recorder: “What we’re trying to do is look at how it was done and cut out the waste, and grow the borough’s public engagement.
“And I’ve said we’ll do a review, and it won’t be me doing it, the [Policy and Resources Service] committee will do the review.”
He added: “This is something we promised before the election and we’ve delivered.”
But ahead of the meeting, Cllr Paul Canal, leader of the Conservative group, dismissed plans for meetings to have two elements – a “question time” and a “market place” – as “laughable”.
“This isn’t a village fete – this is democracy and consultation and community involvement,” he told the Recorder.
“I’m disappointed at how thin it actually looks.”
In Tuesday night’s meeting, councillors also agreed commitments to fund ongoing projects developed by area committees, and criticised last-minute changes to estimated costs.
Former Tory council leader Keith Prince also raised concerns over the costs relating to the new local forums, which are supposed to help the council make important budget savings.
He said £200 a year for refreshments at 12 meetings across different locations around the borough was not feasible.
But Cllr Athwal countered: “What you get is some milk, a box of tea bags and some biscuits.”