On Wednesday the RCT Labour Cabinet meet to discuss the feedback from the consultation process on their phase one cuts proposals. They will then make the official decision on whether or not to go ahead with them - although the cynical view is that the decision has already been made and this will merely see the public rubber stamping of that.
Considering the number of responses received very little substantial feedback appears in the report. Feedback reports on other consultations usually include if not copies of all responses then a list of who the respondees are - at least in the case of elected representatives and groups.
The report states that
'prior to the meeting a facility was made available for all Cabinet Members to view all consultation responses received through the various channels as a result of the Consultation Exercise. This was to ensure Cabinet give due regard to all elements of the feedback received and not just the specific numbers supporting the Phase 1 proposals, or not, and the summarised views outlined in the Consultation Exercise report. This approach also ensures Cabinet has a comprehensive understanding of the wide range of views and opinions provided by the consultees prior to making their decision.'
Now whilst it is good to know they had the opportunity to look at the full feedback the public have no way of knowing if the Cabinet took advantage of this 'facility.' Opposition Councillors were not given this opportunity and so cannot scrutinise effectively.
No notifications were given of responses received - not even those sent by email where a simple standard response would have sufficed and cost nothing.
The timing of the meeting on the 8th has also been criticised. It is being held at 2pm when many protestors will not be able to attend either because they are working or because they would not be able to get back in time to pick up their children from school. Those very same children in some cases who will be directly affected if the original proposal to cut nursery education from April goes ahead.
They could of course broadcast the meeting on the internet. The Labour manifesto for 2012 promised streaming of Council meetings but this has not happened as yet. Last October after much prompting the Labour Cabinet announced they were going to broadcast a Cabinet meeting as a trial. It was cancelled within a few hours of the meeting due to 'unforeseen circumstances.'
Surely they have had plenty of time now to overcome any difficulties?
Openness and transparency, along with democracy and accountability, are words which have little meaning for RCT Labour run Council.