LETTER: Flawed exercise is waste of time

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The letters from Tony Hogben, P.R. Perkins and Sheila White in your issue of February 6 serve to highlight Horsham District Council’s pathetic attempt to give the impression that the ‘meeting in public’ it has scheduled for February 13 is an exercise in open government.

In reality, of course, this is merely the latest twist in the council’s high-handed campaign to rail-road through its Draft Preferred Strategy – and the disastrous North Horsham Strategic Development in particular – in defiance of all reasoned argument and overwhelming public hostility.

It will be obvious to anyone contemplating submitting a question for inclusion among the ten to be posed and answered at the meeting that:

a) the lack of transparency of the procedure for selecting those questions to be put means the procedure is wide open to manipulation, allowing councillors effectively to control which are included and which not;

b) in the two minutes allocated for each question and answer (with no supplementaries allowed) it is almost inconceivable that any useful information will be imparted, especially if the respondent is allowed the usual licence by the chair to avoid answering the question (as happened repeatedly at the council meeting of December 11, 2013).

In the circumstances it is likely that many concerned citizens who are desperate for answers to vital questions concerning the NHSD and other matters will conclude that it is a waste of time to participate in such a flawed exercise. Perhaps that is the intention of those who designed this farcical procedure.

What they will not be able to claim is that they have provided residents with a genuine opportunity to get answers to questions of most concern to them, let alone to express their views freely in a public forum.

Instead it appears they wish to expose us to the views of three so-called experts from outside, who will doubtless have been carefully programmed to lend propaganda support to the Strategy, without the public having any chance to query their findings.

It can only be hoped that some councillors who will have the right to speak at the meeting (including those from the ruling majority) will be sufficiently ashamed of this Stalinist travesty of democracy to speak out against it and demand more transparent procedures in future.

We can also hope that your paper will continue its excellent work in promoting debate on this vital issue by giving maximum coverage of the meeting’s proceedings.

HARRY SHUTT

Allingham Gardens, Horsham