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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

My Christmas Wish List no 2: Can we help to get Area Assemblies to work?

Those of you who have been on the site for a while will know another of my (many) obsessions is the Area Assembly which I have many problems with.

The council are now reviewing the area assemblies as part of a wider review of the decision making process in Haringey.

Here's part of a letter sent to me:

The extreme pressures on the public finances and the resulting reductions in government funding mean that the Council will need to make significant changes to the way in which it provides many of its services. It is therefore all the more important that we ensure our democratic arrangements and structures are responsive to local needs and concerns and are effectively connected to people across Haringey.

 

The review is looking at how our governance arrangements can:

 

  • Increase public engagement and ensure that decisions are taken closer to local people
  • Enable all Councillors to shape and influence the Council’s policies and services and facilitate the community leadership role of Councillors
  • Support the drive to improve council performance
  • Reduce the cost of the governance arrangements, including the sum spent on Councillor allowances

 

The review has so far been based, so far, on a series of discussions and workshops involving a cross-section of councillors from both parties represented on the Council, council staff, and external partners who work closely with the Council on different matters through a range of different democratic bodies. Now we are seeking the views of the wider public and key partners on these matters.

Right, so lots of people have had their say and now its our turn.

The letter continues:

You can complete the survey on-line. The link to the consultation questionnaire can be found at: www.haringey.gov.uk/governance-review . If you require a paper copy of the questionnaire please contact: our Consultation Team on 020 8489 2958.

which is certainly something I can do.

 

As part of the consultation we are also holding a meeting for interested members of the public and stakeholders to talk about the review. This will be held on the 21 December 6pm-8pm at the Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green. If you are interested in attending this meeting please contact Tom Redfearn in the Leader’s office on 020 8489 2687.

which is probably something I can't do (although I'm going to try)

 

So, can I ask you to help me get my Christmas wish and complete the survey and if possible go along to the meeting next Tuesday?

 

 

Tags for Forum Posts: area assembly, area forum

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Thanks for posting this Liz. Your timing was perfect. Having been involved in this earlier in the year, the folk from the Centre for Social Justice with whom I met with just pinged me a note to alert me to this meeting. We were then both perplexed because the meeting you've been invited to isn't listed on Haringey's meeting calendar. So thank you for clearing up that little mystery.

I imagine my involvement earlier in the year was as a result of my seeking to represent questions and concerns that have arisen on the site and seeking to get the role of our assembly clarified and its performance improved. People may wish to read this post and others on HoL about our local assembly before attending next week's meeting.

My approaches to the Assembly Chair (see post linked to above) did eventually lead to a meeting about improving things, the results of which are noted here. I think it's fair to say that the assembly meetings are better run now. There's been a step in the right direction. What's needed at this point is more dynamism and a more inclusive approach towards agenda setting and running the meetings on the part of the council.

Well, they are better managed in this area (can't speak for others), in that the agendas are now published and sent out but better run when we actually turn up I'm not so sure about. The last one I attended was death by Powerpoint and although there were only a few of us in the room, we still sat in rows facing the chair. Suggestions that moving the chairs might help were met with 'not until after we've had a consultation on governance'  response.

I am going to try and attend the meeting but the short notice may mean I can't make it. Not that I've made any secret of my views on the meetings either here online or in the meetings themselves. It would be good if a few more people from the area could attend the above meeting even if they don't go to AA, if only to explain why the don't go to Area Assemblies!

A step in the right direction, though. They're certainly not the chaos they once were.

And in the mean time along come the internets to make the seating arrangement redundant. Anyone who says the internets are not inclusive enough can check out this Daily Mail Article.

 

Can we hold a dry run of an online Assembly?

I think it can safely be said that consultation is not one of Haringey Council's strongpoints.

I have just received an invite to the next Crouch End Area Assembly (13-1-2011 at Hornsey Library) It arrived in the last few days but was dated 2nd Dec. A 'Have your say' consultation document was included in the envelope with a completion deadline of 3rd Dec 2010! In the letter it did extend the deadline to 17th Dec giving 3-4 days to get it in (by post just before Christmas with no paid envelope included).

The questionnaire had 12 questions (excluding equal opps data questions) asking where I thought the budget priorities were including Q1 which asked me to allocate the £4,500 per household spending to 10 different budget headings. I've always wondered how they work out the budget I just never knew it was so democratic.

Are we seriously suposed to belive that if vast numbers of Haringey citizens put all their allocation into 'Reducing Carbon Emissions' that that would be the budget spending priority?

The rest of the questionnaire had a series of questions asking me to identify which budget savings I would favour for the various catagories.

I supose at least they are asking us for our opinion even if they hardly give us any time to think about it.

I look forward immensly to seeing how they manage to devolve decisionmaking down to community level, lots more consultation documents to fill in.

I completely agree with Liz, the local AA's are a missed opportunity and badly put together. What Haringey Council need to get over is their difficulty with actually talking to people let alone listening to them.

 

We live in hope.

Being a bit of a pantallaphobe, I thought I'd wait for my PPC (personalised paper copy) in case it might be more readable over my porridge. Idiot!  Liz's redaction improves the original.

 

Para 1: "... how through our established network of area assemblies local people can be better involved ..."

What network? There are seven unconnected area meetings, each with an ever changing attendance, each probably with minimal internal cohesion or coherence. The bushism 'internets' (beloved of John McM!) might almost be more appropriate. Just because a wandering "cabinet" member may visit two or three AAs on a single night before an election doesn't constitute a 'network'.

 

Para 2 is a slight improvement on their website version: "Given the financial pressures the Council faces we are looking to make sure that our democratic arrangements are cost effective."

Just as you suspected! We never thought about checking on cost effectiveness until big Eric pickled us. Now we want y'all to advise us so you can't blame us later. Did Robert Gorrie insist on dressing that up before signing the letter?

 

Para 4: "The review has so far been based, so far,"  You can say that again.

Was that "series of discussions and workshops" really a series ?

Was that "cross-section of councillors" really a cross-section ?

Who were those "external partners" ?  Why not list them? 

And how can we distinguish between "key partners", "interested members of the public" and (key or non-key) "stakeholders" ?  If I'm a stakeholder I want to know whose heart I stick it through.

 

Yes, I completed yet another consultation questionnaire, this time as an Irish Traveller relieved they're no longer interested in the nitty-gritty of his sex-life - but more convinced than ever that our Servant-Masters are brimful of shite. 

 

The council is indeed reviewing the Area Assemblies, and my reading of it is that, just when Liz and Hugh and others think improvements may begin to bear fruit, they are about to chuck them away. I have set out my argument here. I heartily endorse OAE's sentiments except for the fear of screens

Can't seem to get link to work, Adrian

Sadly, I think the answer to this question is no. Why? One reason is that they have no real powers.

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