Last night the Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum was held in the UKP Hall in the Avenue of Remembrance. As is usual, only about 1 in 2000 of the local population attended along with 6 out of the 21 Borough Councillors who represent the area. The Hall was large with a high ceiling and no microphone was provided, so many of the comments made by presenters and audience were inaudible.
The meeting began with the customarily self-regarding report from the Swale Police. There was a jaunty little chat from a member of the Fire Brigade and then there were presentations by Swale Council and Kent County Council on the Parish Council Review and on the future of Children’s’ Centres. Both avoided the more contentious issues surrounding these matters. No opportunity is ever taken to really explore the arguments and counter arguments. There is no doubt that the diffident presentations to such a small assembly will be ticked off somewhere as “public consultation.”
There was no room on the agenda for matters such as the Swale Local Plan or for the continuing threat to users of the Phoenix Community centre.
These “engagement” meetings are simply playing at Localism. They are poorly advertised. They are dull. Apart from the SFM radio they are ignored by the local media. They use up valuable resources. They need to be either radically reformed or stopped
Roger Truelove is the Labour County Councillor for Swale Central and the Borough Councillor for Chalkwell Ward