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“We need to talk” – at regular forums

Last year in order to save the cost of a few hours of overtime the Conservative and Liberal Democrats voted to abolish the consultative forums from the access forum to the sports and arts forums.

I assume at least this was the intention, rather than not wanting to discuss matters of importance with the people most affected. However it clearly wasn’t the intention.

Now of course the structures that were in place weren’t perfect and in some cases needed an update or refresh, so we’ve moved to re-establish these forums and in some cases their format and membership has been refreshed – in consultation with the people who make up those interest groups. We’ve saved money to fund this by having some internal meetings, like the Labour group meetings, no longer minuted by a paid council officer. We still have minutes but they are taken by a councillor.

A extract from press release from the Labour party below gives some examples:

“Lead Councillor for Community Care Mike Orton held a consultative meeting for older people on 9 September, about 100 people came and said they wanted to have a real say in Council decisions affecting them, so Mike Orton is proposing to the Council meeting on 18 October the formation of a new Older People’s Working Group to take this forward.

At the same Council meeting and following similar pressure from a reconvened Access Forum in July, Cllr. Pete Ruhemann will be proposing that the Forum be renamed the Access & Disabilities Working Group with new and expanded Terms of Reference.

There was a very positive and productive first meeting of the Arts Forum, chaired by Cllr. Sarah Hacker, on 13 September and it was decided the forum will have a relaxed agenda going forward with talks, meetings held in various venues and a chance to share events and information within the arts community of Reading.

Cllr. Paul Gittings has held a first meeting of the reconvened Sports Development Forum and further meetings are planned leading up to the Olympics 2012. Cllr. Rachel Eden has chaired two meetings of the Safer Reading Neighbourhood Action Forum, attended by NAG chairs, Council officers and senior police officers, and working on the reduction of crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Ethnic Minorities Forum has also been reconvened and is working towards a new structure for the future; a special meeting of the Green City and Open Spaces Forum is being planned; and the Transport Users’ Forum is now meeting for an hour before each meeting of the Traffic Management Advisory Panel which makes recommendations to Cabinet.

Cllr. Hartley says: “Since forming the new administration, Labour has been determined to listen to and work with different stakeholder groups and make sure their voices were heard, especially in these difficult times. In contrast to last year’s coalition, we’ve been developing new and innovative ways of making the Council work better with local people.”

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