This response has been submitted by the Haslemere Action Group to David, who wrote to haslemereparking.com earlier this week in the blog post: Who are these stakeholders and what stake do they represent?
We fully agree with your principles of transparency. For clarification the meeting held last Thursday evening in the Haslemere Museum was an “Officer’s Meeting”, convened and chaired by SCC’s officer Richard Bolton. Everyone attended at the invitation of SCC, and I myself was there representing Transition Town Haslemere.
We are committed to open collaboration, which was emphasised as an underlying objective by everyone, including the essential teaming between the three tiers (SCC, WBC and HTC), together with the full range of local stakeholders and residents. The old way of secret bilateral meetings that resulted in division and suspicion should not be tolerated. We are very disturbed that these may not have stopped, and for our part we will keep SCC true to its commitment to a full and proper consultation as was publicly announced at the Waverley Local Committee meeting on Friday, June 22nd.
On the theme of transparency, Jerry Barton asked a public question at Friday’s meeting of the Waverley Local Committee as to why the terms of reference for the Task Groups (which are supposed to bring forward proposals about transport and parking to the Local Committee) state that the Task Groups should ‘unless otherwise agreed, meet in private’ and ‘unless otherwise agreed, treat as confidential any documentation made available for discussion’. Jerry suggested that instead, the default must be that meetings should be held openly and only meet in private or with confidential documents on an exceptional basis where clearly needed.
The perverse situation arises that the HTC representative on the Haslemere and Western Villages Task Group is unable to report back to HTC or any other stakeholders in the community as to the direction or progress of any proposals. In the case of the original parking proposals, this meant that HTC and the community were kept in the dark while the proposals were developed – presumably in secret by the Task Group, although there is no indication that the Task Group itself actually played any role by way of democratic process at all!
In a discussion on this point on Friday, the committee members agreed to maintain the secrecy, arguing that the public may jump to premature conclusions about proposals that were still under discussion. The only concession was that there will now be an ability for a local stakeholder (such as HTC) to at most report the fact that a Task Group meeting on given transport or parking proposals has been attended. No other changes would be made until the outcome of the broader review that SCC is undertaking on the workings of the Local Committees.
We feel that the public, if given full and open information throughout the consultation process, is perfectly able to understand when proposals about their own community are in a draft stage. Without these terms of reference being amended the role of the Task Group must be viewed with scepticism and we would push for alternative means of ensuring the full engagement takes place with all stakeholders and residents in an open way, as Cllr Mulliner has described. Otherwise, there is a risk that the efforts of any resident or organisation to contribute to the solutions will be wasted.
Nikki Barton, Haslemere Action Group