Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Anyone For Tea? (Or A Top Down Approach to Bottom Up Planning)

First, before I start a new thread looking at bottom up policy development and the lofty ideal of 'participation' I need to revisit yesterday's blog. In it I wrote that the draft Engagement Strategy Document was being sent to County Councillors and key stake holders yesterday (October 26th). This was an error. Having re-read the email it states that the draft document was being sent to the concillors only. So I apologise for this mistake. I am very sorry, but not as sorry as I am that despite being told that the draft Engagement Strategy for the NSD was reputedly made public this morning I have yet to hear anything about it. Now in fairness, and I am trying to be fair about this, I haven't listened to any local news bulletins today. So it is possible that it has been widely reported on the TV and radio news (although there is nothing on the BBC news home page this evening). There was an interesting report in the East Anglian Daily Times (which I will discuss in a moment) but nothing about the content of this Engagement Strategy. I have spent quite a long time this evening re-visiting Suffolk County Council's website but there is no new information on the New Strategic Direction webpage. The content of this hasn't been updated since the NSD was announced back in September. One could, I think, reasonably expect that emerging  information on the New Strategic Direction, such as the Engagement Strategy, would be posted on this page (assuming that is, that you want that information to be in the public domain). There is however, what looks like a new logo for the New Strategic Direction at the top of the page- branding being the crucial first step in public engagement after all.

Whilst I was exploring the website I did happen upon the 'About Suffolk Council' page which contains the statement 'We now also publish the salaries of senior officials' and a link that you can click to get this information. So I thought I'd have a little look. I'm being disengenuous now. I have been having a 'little look' regularly since the 25th of September and there is no page with this information or at least the page hasn't been acessible on the eight seperate occasions that I have checked over the past month. Perhaps this is an oversight?

So, quickly to today's East Anglian Daily Times and a feature entitled 'The Big Questions. Suffolk: Eight vital issues the county council must address'. This report highlights the lack of information that has been placed in the public domain regarding the NSD and lists eight questions that the East Anglian has put to the County  Council on behalf of the community. These cover the following areas:
  • Impact on vulnerable people
  • Local government's moral and leagl responsibility
  • Linking things together
  • Leadership capacity
  • Suffolks local economy
  • Suffolk county council and the NHS
  • External advice and feed back
  • 'Proactive and wide-ranging engagement'
Obviously the last of these is dear to my own heart and the report  raises some of the questions I have been asking councillors and the council executive for the past five weeks and have also been blogging about. I have had no joy in finding out answers to my questions. However the East Anglian Daily Times has asked for a response to its questions within a week. I will be reading the paper with interest over the next few days because I am still idealistic enought (just!) to expect the Fourth Estate to have some influence where mere individuals have none (The reference for this report is as follows: Hunt, T. (October 27th 2010) 'The Big Questions' East Anglian Daily Times Pages 1,5 & 26. The East Anglian's website is:

I will finish here. More later about Participation and  Top Down versus Bottom Up policy and planning.

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