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Halesowen Area Committee to be scrapped in favour of forums
9:01am Wednesday 3rd October 2012 in Local
The plans by the ruling Labour group on Dudley Council have led to accusations of manipulation and toothless local democracy by Halesowen Conservatives.
The days of Cradley residents turning up en masse to berate Halesowen councillors are to end with separate forums expected for the two towns.
After cut backs the Halesowen Area Committee only met three times with councillors from Halesowen South, Halesowen North, Belle Vale, Hayley Green and Cradley South and Cradley and Foxcote attending to debate and decide on various issues. Councillor David Sparks, leader of Dudley Council, said: “The area committees had become too bureaucratic and formal which puts people off from coming along and defeats the purpose.
“This is about giving public meetings back to the public, by making them simpler and more accessible, where the public attending them will set the agenda by the issues they raise.”
He added: “The new forums will focus more on local issues and those things that matter to the people living there. As a result, every forum will be different as it needs to reflect the specific communities we are working with and the different issues that affect those communities.”
Hayley Green and Cradley South Conservative councillor Ken Turner is opposed to the shake up.
He said: “This seems like rank political manipulation to me and the people of Halesowen will suffer and it also raises serious questions about local democracy.
“Analysis clearly identifies the restructure being analysed into a political make up by attempting to secure Labour control in most areas.”
He added: “And the decision making powers of these new forums are really in question because of the constitution of Dudley Council, what will be the point of them if every decision has to be ratified by full council?”
He added: “Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with encouraging and developing greater public awareness and involvement I am concerned that it may be an attempt to influence public opinion and direct involvement toward political control.”
Nine forums are being proposed which will include between two and four council wards and will meet five times a year.