Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Dose of Their Own Medicine



Yesterday evening I was at a local meeting concerning the development of a field in the area. For years this field has been the subject of residential development by a variety of developers, but now it seems the current developer intends to go ahead and quickly.

Several meetings have been held over the years because, as it usual with large developments, people have particular concerns. Those meetings have been semi-informal, led by a small group of neighbours/organisers and invited guests sitting at a top table. A few have included local councillors, the occasional council official and our MSP on one occasion. No minutes have been taken so there are no official records. The only records are the copious personal notes of attendees.

Last night three local councillors were invited to attend and each gave a brief speech which conveyed little information other than how hard they work and how important they are to these local issues.

Towards the end of the meeting one councillor suggested the developer should be invited to the next meeting to discuss certain issues and he offered to arrange his attendance.

Because of the lack of formal records, I suggested the next meeting could be recorded on video by placing one on a tripod at the back of the room. The response to the suggestion was amazing. Immediately the three councillors, in unison, protested. Their reasons for objecting were:

a) Everyone attending would have to give their permission. Easy I said. Everyone could sign in on arrival giving permission.

b) If one person withheld their permission what then I was asked. Before I could reply up popped another objection.

c) The developer may not attend. Of course that is nonsense as the developer has no reason to object to the meeting being videoed. If he did object then it would show he had something to hide and developers are honest, communicative people aren't they.

By now I was bemused. The people who are happy to vote for more CCTV cameras, vote for by-laws which curtail our freedoms, vote for databases which record every aspect of our daily lives didn't want to be on camera themselves. I had thought the biggest protest would be from those who are of an age when modern technology is of little interest and may not have realised the benefit of having an accurate record now the planning proposals are to be assessed within a few months, but it was our elected representatives, paid by us to support us, who were desperately anxious to knock the idea on the head. It's clear they don't like even the suggestion of a dose of their own medicine.

22 comments:

JuliaM said...

"By now I was bemused. The people who are happy to vote for more CCTV cameras, vote for by-laws which curtail our freedoms, vote for databases which record every aspect of our daily lives didn't want to be on camera themselves. "

Hypocrites, all...

subrosa said...

Exactly Julia. It was a simple wee exercise which proved that beyond doubt.

Macheath said...

Perhaps it's symptomatic of the rising awareness of the power of the internet.

I suspect councillors up and down the land have been having emergency meetings about the potential havoc bloggers could wreak on their world - and probably seminars and presentations at our expense on damage limitation.

High on the list of issues must surely be video footage - hence the reluctance to be filmed.

subrosa said...

Perhaps it is Macheath, but if they've nothing to hide and are competent at their jobs then what's the problem?

There can't be a more efficient record of anything if done by video. Also it would help those who organise these meetings to compile formal minutes for verification and distribution to all concerned. After all it was a public meeting.

Macheath said...

SR, maybe I'm cynical, but that's a very big 'if'...

subrosa said...

Yes it is a very big if Macheath. Too big for these councillors present last night anyway.

Oldrightie said...

"and he offered to arrange his (business associates)attendance."

Dick Puddlecote said...

Well observed, Rosie. I was going to say what Julia did. But as she has already ... I won't. :)

Billy said...

Brown envelopes comes to mind. Why the rush to build now anyway when everywhere you look housing developments have been mothballed and houses are lying unsold everywhere?

j purdie said...

Perhaps the next meeting could be held outside near some CCTV cameras?

You might even be lucky enough to get a policeman wander by and nick the Councilors for loitering. :)

I wouldn't call them corrupt or anything, it seems nowadays for anyone in a position of power to automatically be negative.

However, there is always the 'do as I say not as I do' element. When the subject of compulsory voting rears its head every now and again I always think 'Brilliant, MPs/MEP/MSPs/Councilors forced by law to do their job and vote at their place of work' but it always turns out they mean me not them.

strapworld said...

Subrosa,

As no minutes are taken, the meeting has no standing orders. Therefore you could take a video camera (and get others to do the same) if the councillors walk out-great they should be kicked out at the next meeting and if the developer walks out (which I doubt!) then you all should be quite concerned.

If the meeting was called by the council then perfectly valid questions should be sent to the Chief executive of that council demanding to know why no minutes were taken.

That a councillor wants to bring the developer him/herself strikes a warning bell in my head and suggests some form of friendship/collusion/arrangement?

Your point about CCTV's etc is well made and, perhaps, a local campaign against these three councillors will create a sudden change of mind!

Demetrius said...

Personally, I would be a little fearful of my appearance on camera being high jacked for Youtube spoofs, some of which are very good indeed. Also, there is the vulnerability to unsympathetic editing. Having done a bit of live TV and been at very many other live performances alongside the camera's I am a bit wary myself of the camera.

subrosa said...

Ah OR, you're on the same wavelength as me in this.

subrosa said...

It's shameful Dick. I know I live in a community which isn't too keen on change, but for the councillors to immediately jump, long before I heard anything from the rest of the gathering, spoke volumes.

subrosa said...

Billy, it's said in this wee town that there is a need for new housing. Funnily enough three other development applications have been turned down recently, yet one on the perimeter of a town gets the go-ahead.

Something fishy to me and it's not kippers.

subrosa said...

Purdie, in this small community we don't have too many CCTV cameras and I think that would be nearly impossible. But why are they so negative about something which would benefit those who are affected by this big development is my question. They profess to be helping yet stand in the way of a system far better than any human can minute - video.

subrosa said...

Strapworld, now that is interesting. No these meetings over the years have no standing orders. It's just a few of my neighbours, three to be exact, who have undertaken all the work, although I have offered.

No the meeting was called by us, the concerned although the council now want objections by 15 September. All previous objections will be disregarded (since 2005 it's been going on).

That does strike a bell with me when one said he would contact the developer and invite him. Unfortunately the three people who are leading this are rather naive in political matters and think the attendance of the councillors was an honour to the meeting. How I wish I could make them see that courtesy is of course good, but respect needs to be earned.

subrosa said...

Demetrius, it's only the people who are at the top table who would be facing the camera if it was fixed at the back of the room. Anyone else outwith the camera angle would have their backs to it and only audio would be recorded.

As for editing, I'm sure the group of 50+ people involved would be happy to trust that the video would not be edited. After all we're all in it together and the video would be in our hands, not those of the other parties.

Apogee said...

Hi SR, possibly thought about, at the next meeting,make sure the press are there, TV news if possible. The history of this project, the reluctance of the councillors to go on record and the sudden haste, might interest the Gentlemen of the Press.
I am sure it could be put to them in an interesting manner.

subrosa said...

That's an idea Apogee. The local press will be hopeless because they can see no wrong with our political representatives but I'll have a word with the organisers.

BrianSJ said...

Local activism will grow and the councils will feel more and more threatened. I think you have found a very good way of keeping them away. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

subrosa said...

Sunshine is indeed the best disinfectant Brian. It brightens my white towels no end.

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