Consultation comedy

By Nik Butler

The comments were posted, they were filed, they were shouted and emailed and they were reviewed. Then in all this consultation collation of constituent feedback, which resulted in more than a thousand views, an almost flippant response to the North Horsham consultation document was delivered.

Apparently we had, in equal or greater measures, complained as St Marks was ripped into or when Sainsbury’s was erected. We are told these works did not turn out so bad. Is this how we wish to be represented?

To ask a community for votes whilst promising to listen to their values but only if these match the outcome they desire. We hope to find statesmen or leaders instead we discover the oligarchs and self selecting committees who are holding private conversations and occasionally doling out crumbs of grants and hope in the suggestion that we should “jolly well feel grateful”.

Such flippancy in the face of the continuing public awareness at the imbalance of spending and the conservation of power will not pour a soothing oil on inflamed opinions.

They might as well light a fuse and run for cover. When celebrities spout nonsense encouraging people to drop out of voting and democracy their credibility is increased when subjected to such a visible consultation brush offs.

Have Horsham’s elected officials become nothing more than spokespeople for embedded civil servants feathering their own career success through development achievements? After a while the apathy takes hold and just as interest in voting declines so does interest in protesting and complaining.

This may seem like the best resolution until such time as we remember that history showed that such silences preempt more explosive campaigns and vitriol. What then are the real alternatives. In what way do we enable planning and progress with growing developments when it is possible that any voice will argue hard to deny a compromise. In an era where mass communication and an almost pervasive level of state surveillance exists how are we still no better at reaching out and forming consensus without a committee.

I do not have many answers but I share much of the frustration. It is clear that not only do we need to change how we are represented but how to review, then modernise, the administrative mechanisms of planning and democracy which appear to favour the invested and the privileged in place of our community and the district.

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