Frustrated public walk out over running of Neighbourhood Forum

A COUNCILLOR claims the recently formed East Strategic Neighbourhood Forum is failing to abide by its own constitution.

Cllr Doreen Dickinson

Cllr Doreen Dickinson says the four Tameside forums, formed to replace the nine town councils, is flawed as it does not give the public a voice on local issues.

The comments came after several members of the public walked out of the latest East Strategic Neighbourhood Forum, that covers Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Mossley, in protest over the way it was being run.

Cllr Dickinson had sympathy for the public explaining the forums are not adhering to the remit when they were set up last year, adding they were more like meetings for councillors rather than for the public.

She added: “Neighbourhood forums are just talking shops about council policies.

“You cannot join three towns like Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Mossley together. It doesn’t work as the public want to know about issues in their town and not elsewhere.”

In the two East Strategic Neighbourhood Forums so far the agendas have consisted of presentations and discussions on Tameside Council policies with the public unable to raise issues of concern.

Cllr Dickinson pointed to the constitution which stated forums will “focus on local input into the decision-making process with the Forums being primary consultees on amongst other things”.

It then listed highways matters; highways maintenance; grounds maintenance; parks, gardens and open space; street cleansing; young people; community safety; ward budgets; complaints; environmental improvements; street naming; entertainment and events; regeneration initiatives; markets; land use.

Cllr Dickinson believes there was little wrong with the six district assemblies that had their own budgets and which were replaced by nine town councils in 2016 that had no access to any council funding.

She said: “It the district assemblies had been tweaked, they would have been fine rather than inventing something new.

“With the forums, the public has no voice other than on the policies being discussed and can’t discuss other issues about their town.

“If I was in control – I am not – I would review the forums as they are not abiding by their own constitution.”

Cllr Dickinson explained some councillors were unaware of items being brought to Tameside Council’s executive committee so it was intended to bring issues to the forum before they went to them.

In the latest East Strategic Neighbourhood Forum at Dukinfield Town Hall, the three items on the agenda were the Living Life Well Programme, community safety and Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group budget conversation.

Lee Stafford, who stood for the independent party Stalybridge Town at the 2018 local elections, attempted to raise the question of the proposed pedestrianisation of Melbourne Street and Market Street at the forum meeting in October.

He wanted to know why his request was not included in the minutes for that meeting, claiming they were not a true record of proceedings.

Lee added the forums were not following the constitution that was drafted when it was set up.

He also commented on how few members of the public attended the forum, pointing out it was not widely advertised.

“I was told it was advertised on the Tameside Council website, but it took seven clicks to find it. I suggested people don’t turn up because they are unaware when the meetings are being held,” he explained.

Lee was one of four from nine members of the public who walked out in protest at how the forum was being run.

Cllr Dickinson agreed the minutes for the October meeting were incorrect.

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