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Cllr brands community forum plan as "lip service"
3:22pm Wednesday 3rd October 2012 in News
DUDLEY Council's plans to replace area committees have been condemned as no more than paying lip service to election promises.
The authority's ruling Labour group aims to scrap township-based meetings in favour of low-key community forums which they say will make councillors more accessible to the public.
However Dudley's Conservative leader says the idea has not been thought through and will be a flop.
Cllr Les Jones told the News: "They made a great play of how they are going to talk to the public, this is paying lip service to that.
"I am not convinced the design is right. I am not against change that makes things better but this is destined to fail, it needs much more than fine tuning."
The proposals will introduce smaller forums based on between two and four council wards which will meet five times each year.
Currently area committees allocate funds to community causes and Cllr Jones fears under the new system the most needy causes could miss out, while better-off groups in more affluent wards will get the cash.
He also sees problems with the management of good causes like the Stevens Trust, which oversees green spaces including Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge.
Cllr Jones said: "It could just be councillors from three wards, or you transfer the management of the Stevens Trust away from forums and give it back to Dudley - that takes it further away from the people of Stourbridge."
Cllr 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.
“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.”
The new forums will be paid for from existing budgets and Dudley Council insists they will not cost taxpayers any more.
A consultation is under way, people can email their comments to Philip Tart, Dudley director of corporate resources, via email@example.com