Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hope and Despair

I started the working day at St Marks Elm Tree primary school in Stockton where pupils and staff have decided to become a Fairtrade school. The children have had lots of good ideas and I was invited to lead their assembly, explaining to them all the value of buying Fairtrade goods. A technical hitch meant they didn't have the pictures to look at on the screen but nevertheless I think we managed reasonably. I look forward to being able to celebrate with them the achievement of Fairtrade status.
This afternoon was back to earth with a bump - planning committee. The committee meeeting wasn't the problem, except for a developer who seemed to have no concept of fitting a design in with the surroundings. No, the problem was the update session afterwards. The government's new bright ideas on how to speed up the planning process: don't consult with people who might slow things down, introduce new wishy washy descriptions to give appeal lawyers a field day and cost local authorities a fortune, publish guidance about consultation that finished months ago ... Need I go on. Suffice to say that no-one, officers or members, was happy with what is happening and none of us has the power to change it.
One young councillor tried to say that things would change after the next general election but his older and wiser colleagues just shook their heads in despair. We all recognise that the priority after the next election for the government of whatever colour will be the economy and details of local democracy and accountability will just be put on the back burner.

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