In Uttlesford we continually ask for a democratic approach to government and consultation with the residents before meddling with important local issues.
The clue is in the name;
As “Residents for Uttlesford” our mandate is clear and rather simple. Consult with residents on all important issues and LISTEN to what they tell us.
Not that complicated you’d think?
Yet earlier this year Howard Rolfe and his Conservative cabinet decided to reduce the parking on the Saffron Walden Common from four to two hours. His reasoning was that he had commissioned an outside “independent” consultant to analyse parking in Saffron Walden and this was part of what they recommended.
Seems simple enough doesn’t it?
Well not really. You see this is not what the residents of Saffron Walden wanted. And yup, you guessed it, they where not consulted.
“Well”, they might reply, “this was not a big enough issue to warrant resident consultation”.
To that I say, “then why spend resident’s money on an independent consultant?”
And – surely its important if residents think it’s important?
Well as it turns out, residents did think it was important. Important enough to mount a petition and important enough to get more than 1800 signatures.
In fact, it was important enough to compel Cllr Richard Freeman (Head of Town Council’s planning committee) to present this petition to Howard and his cabinet. I reckon that’s really quite important.
And this he did – backed by the organiser and her supporters, at a recent meeting of the Uttlesford District Council.
Great! An example of Democracy in action!
Sadly, UDC Leader Howard Rolfe’s response was not.
The response was, to paraphrase, “Thanks for all your effort and passion but I know what’s best for you and your town and I’ve already decided.”
He had, in fact decided, some weeks earlier, to change the restriction to three hours. So that was that.
Now I’m not suggesting that he rides roughshod over Saffron Walden because they voted en masse for a different party, that would be petty and mean spirited.
I’m not even suggesting that he has a vested interest in high turn-over of parking places in Saffron Walden. That would be just silly.
But I am suggesting that he has completely ignored the stated and restated wishes of the people of Saffron Walden, thinking he knows best. And that’s Simply Undemocratic.
Surely when 1800 people sign a petition to preserve parking on the common, this deserves more than disdain.
We as councillors serve our constituents and their needs by engaging, listening and trying to act in their best interests.
Not by deciding what best for them but by trying to understand their wants and concerns.
When we get clear signals from residents about what they want, we are duty bound to listen, and consider their wishes.
If we don’t through arrogance, ignorance or misguided sense of entitlement we become redundant and counter productive.
So I call on residents to continue to petition. Continue to voice your concerns and continue to make yourselves heard. If at first you don’t succeed…..