• The public deadline to ask council a question missed by a minute?
• Missing paragraphs in official answers?
• Still no ‘joined-up’ thinking?
Rochdale Council meeting agenda and missing paragraphs from official answers:
The meeting was organised by the Rochdale Township office, Legal and Democratic Services, but an apparent mix-up in communication meant that members of the 2 local campaign groups had not been invited:
Item 2 on the meeting’s agenda was:
“Views of Spodden Valley and Healey Dell Group on the working party if known”
Luckily, Save Spodden Valley campaign co-ordinator Jason Addy was in the Town Hall when the meeting started, so was invited in by councillors:
Jason Addy comments:
“It appears that there had just been an unfortunate administrative error.”
“The SSV campaign is grateful to councillors from all parties at the meeting that defended our rights to ask questions. We are especially grateful to the Chair of Rochdale Township Cllr. Angela Coric, who has repeatedly vowed that Public debate must not be stifled”.
“SSV accepts that with our rights come responsibilities- we must ensure that facts about the Turners site are fully addressed but in a way that doesn’t hinder others from using the Public Forums for their issues”.
“The Public Forums have been a victim of their own success- they are really crowded. It is ‘people power’ in action”.
“Some common-sense suggestions have been made that could speed up our participation at meetings. The leaders of the 3 parties will be meeting this week about it”.
“One thing is for sure- we won’t go away- the issues are far too important for that:
At the last 3 council meetings we have politely and patiently waited almost 8 hours in total before our questions have been considered”.
“The last question we submitted was rejected by the Borough Solicitor because it arrived by email one minute after the noon deadline for public questions. But something positive came from it- all 3 parties joined together to ask the question themselves at last week’s Council meeting”.
“We waited almost 3½ hours for the item to come up. In the end we had to wait until the next day for an email with the official response to the question. What we read surprised us- it is lengthy but doesn’t seem to answer the question at all”.
More confusion was caused when it appears that the official answer emailed to councillors and the public had a full paragraph missing form it when compared to the paper answer that had been supplied to the Lead Member for the Environment, Cllr. Ann Metcalfe.
The missing paragraph reads:
“I AM ASSUMING THE QUESTION IS AIMED AT THE POWERS RELATING TO COMTAMINATION OF THE SITE"
Jason Addy has concerns about the apparent discrepancy:
“It is an important paragraph to be omitted from the public copies emailed to councillors because the 'assumption' the missing paragraph refers to is an incorrect assumption - The question asked for a full statement of the all council's powers and responsibilities over the former TBA site”.
“The missing first paragraph limits the scope of the answer so that it only considered one issue- contaminated land. There was no reference whatsoever to other possible council powers and responsibilities –such as: Environmental Health, control of asbestos at work, footpaths, woodland management, amenity, waste management - to name a few”.
“The reason for the question was to raise the issue of 'joined-up thinking' – between the council and government agencies. This is a matter that Paul Rowen MP and Jim Dobbin MP are to discuss at a meeting with a Government Minister very soon”.
“An unfortunate example of what appears to have been a past failure with inter-agency communication in the Spodden Valley is how the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) did not appear to effectively liaise with the Forestry Commission and Council last year over the destruction of woodlands. Evidence for a Forestry Act criminal prosecution was being gathered: the Forestry Commission was waiting for permission by the HSE to go on the former asbestos factory site. The permission never came, so the 6 month limit to prosecute was missed; yet the contractors had already admitted being in breach of the criminal law. Ironically, through ‘miscommunication’, the developers appear to have escaped a criminal prosecution for their past actions”.
“If mistakes in enforcement can happen over the destruction of acres of woodlands then it is understandable why we all must do everything in our power to ensure there is ‘joined-up up thinking’ between the regulators to ensure that known cancer-causing materials from the Spodden Valley site do not cause any more harm”.
• An update of recent events is to be given at the Spotland Area Forum meeting at Spotland Methodist Chapel- 7.30pm this Wednesday 19th October.