Cllr Caroline ffiske says:
Last week I asked Hammersmith & Fulham Council officers if they could give me an update on the Blythe Road bus proposal.
The background is that in January this year the Council received a petition from local residents asking them to explore the possibility of a Blythe Road bus service.
The Council’s response to my query began:
“There is no proposal for a bus service in Blythe Road.”
I take this as being definitive.
However, the email goes on to refer to the pro-bus, and the later anti-bus, petitions saying:
“We are currently verifying the petitions in accordance with the council’s procedures. We will then carefully consider the points made in the petitions and in the other correspondence we have received and respond to them.”
I read this as ~ we are committed to keeping you all, pro- and anti- bus, in the dark for much longer.
If the Council is clear that there will be no bus, I think they should just tell residents so, publicly. I’m not sure what “careful consideration” of the points made in the petitions will achieve.
The bus proposal has been a sorry saga from the beginning. It speaks of a department unable to manage what should be a straight-forward policy and consultation process.
It’s worth taking another look at what has gone on.
In early May, the Council asked TfL if it could attend a meeting on the Springvale Estate to hear from the pro-bus petitioners what sort of service they were interested in. So far so good.
However, seemingly without consulting the Tenants Association, the Council decided to turn their private meeting into a public one. And spent ~ £900 on a leaflet distributed to residents living in and around Blythe Road. The leaflet rather crassly told residents “you’ve asked for a new bus service” – when the vast majority hadn’t, and gave them three days notice of the meeting.
A storm of astonished emails followed, and this part of the meeting was cancelled.
So, hundreds of residents were left waiting to hear from the Council as to what the next steps would be.
The next steps never came.
Despite inumerable emails flying around between residents, councillors, and council officers, the Council has never once put in place any kind of formal process to explore the bus proposal and its merits; and it has not put in place even the most rudimentary consultation. In the vacuum that followed, a number of residents launched the anti-bus petition which quickly acquired ~ 660 signatures.
That petition has now been with the Council for three weeks.
The Council that aspires to do things “with” residents has simply left local residents to slug out an issue via petitioning and counter-petitioning. That is not good.
At one point (at an Olympia meeting) a few pro- and anti-bus residents managed to run into each other. It was surreal as the original meeting agenda was cast aside so that residents could hear from each other. I started to think we needed to go back to direct democracy and convene an open meeting on Brook Green.
Over the months that this has gone on, I have mostly been contacted by residents strongly opposed to the bus and asking how they can get involved with the process. It has been odd and embarrassing to explain that there seems to be…. no process. I have also received emails from people who would like to learn more about the possibility of a new local transport service. It has been just as odd telling them that there seems to be no consultation, but they could sign a petition…..?
Looking at the pages and pages of emails on this subject I saw this from me, to the relevant Council officer on 9 May right at the beginning of this whole fiasco:
“….Please do let me know, after the Monday meeting, what the proposed next steps are and timeline. I’ll try to disseminate this to as many people as possible, as soon as possible, as the emails are still flying in. If we can in any way, frame or limit what might be considered going forward, that would be good. …. anything that provides more information would be good…”
There is an idea from Cllr Belinda Donovan to seek minutes from the TRA meeting in the hopes that this could be at least one bit of documentation which could enlighten other residents as to how Council officers planned to take the issue forward.
I see an email from Cllr Joe Carlebach to a resident, dated 7 May, saying “the proposal needs a proper investigation in particular the benefits/disadvantages to residents, traffic flows and the impact on Olympia and the wider community.”
Investigation… next steps… timeline…. information…?
No – that is the stuff of open and consultative decision-making.