Plans to scrap Hartlepool's 'outdated' community forums

Council chiefs said they are to look to scrap their ‘outdated’ community forums.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 4:45 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre

Currently the council holds ‘North and Coastal’ and ‘South and Central’ Community Forums quarterly, both held in the town’s Civic Centre on the same day, with one at 10am and the other 1.30pm.

Reviewing the forums, councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council Constitution Committee said they would like to see the community forums replaced.

Council chiefs will look to instead create an annual programme rolled out as part of the council’s ‘Your Say, Our Future’ consultation approach to allow residents to have their say.

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A report detailing what the proposed replacement programme will look like will be brought to a future meeting, while the community forums scheduled in this municipal year will still be carried out.

Councillors on the committee said the forums had become ‘outdated’ and are no longer used for the intended purpose.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “You’ll never get people here, because the point is they’re boring, they’re an old system.

“The biggest failure of the forums is when they stopped meeting in the community. They used to go to places in West View, Owton Manor, various places.

“The most ridiculous part about it is you have a situation where you have two different forums meeting in the same building within a few hours of each other, what sort of message does that send out?

“It’s just an opportunity for certain people to grandstand about the issues, it’s a waste of time and frankly a waste of money. People sat in that room could be using their time more productively.

“Let’s scrap them, let’s put the confidence in ourselves as councillors and the team around us who deal with these issues.”

The forums typically include updates from police and fire service representatives, a public question time and presentations from council officers.

Council officers also noted the issues discussed at forums can be dealt with at ward surgeries, localised consultation, HBC Online, committee meetings, and on social media.

Coun Marjorie James said: “I’ve been quite an advocate of the community forums over the years.

“The fact is the status of the forum has diminished over the years, it has been played down, they no longer operate in the way that they were intended.”

Councillors also noted the community forums are not well attended and had also previously been held at different times, with similar attendances.

Coun Shane Moore, council leader, also noted the lack of responses from councillors on the topic when asked ahead of the meeting.

He said: “The fact that no responses were received from members in relation to the options says a lot about how seriously people take the community forums.

“We do offer plenty of other options for residents to get in touch with officers and councillors.”

Coun Brenda Harrison said she would also be open to seeing them replaced, but only if something better is put in place.

She said: “There’s a lot of hanging about from police and fire and people who are giving presentations, they are hanging about from one to the other, I do think it should be changed, but I wouldn’t like to see the end of that.

“If something better is put in its place that would be fine. There are a number of people who rely on that forum to air their views.”