Day services – Why bother consulting?

Cllr Robin Stuchbury with petition outside The British Red Cross Day Centre in Buckingham.'100818M-B282
Cllr Robin Stuchbury with petition outside The British Red Cross Day Centre in Buckingham.'100818M-B282

WHY bother consulting, if your minds are already made up?

That’s one of the messages going out this week from Buckingham Town Council to Bucks County Council over the future of day services provision.

In March, Bucks County Council published its final decision on the future of day services in Bucks, following a public consultation held between June and September last year.

And at Buckingham Town Council’s meeting on May 9, Councillor Robin Stuchbury proposed the council should make a detailed response to the decision document.

Mr Stuchbury told the Advertiser: “I felt, as the town council had handed in a petition to the chairman of Bucks County Council, we should at least put our point of view across, because otherwise the public will feel we’ve neglected them.

“It’s very important the public see that councillors carry out what they’ve been asked to do.”

Town clerk Chris Wayman has now written a three-page reply to strategic director for adults and family wellbeing Rita Lally, in which he raises a number of serious concerns.

He points to a lack of practical information in the report over how the new service will be implemented, and where Buckingham’s proposed new Day Opportunities Centre will be.

The letter says: “Buckingham Town Council is very disappointed that, while a decision has been made on the sites for the provision of the other five major centres, the site for the new (or refurbished) facility in Buckingham has not. This has left both the Well Street Centre and the Red Cross Day Centre in limbo.”

It also objects to the amount of information contained in the report which has been kept confidential and not made public – including the budget layout of the new service, which appears to be contained within a confidential appendix.

Seven petitions were received by BCC in response to the consultation last year, with more than 2,500 people in Buckingham signing a petition to keep the Red Cross Day Centre and the Well Street Centre open, and Princes Risborough residents reportedly gathering 3,000 signatures.

But the report only records that there were seven petitions, and fails to list the numbers of people who signed them – something My Wayman describes as “disingenuous”, pointing out: “Between Buckingham and Princes Risborough we succeeded in getting more than double the number of people involved than did the consultation sessions BCC ran.”

And the letter condemns an appendix to the report which dismisses negative public feedback on the consultation. It reads “It may appear that the response to the Having A Good Day consultation has been overly negative, but it is inevitable in this type of consultation that those who have responded will also be those who have an interest in the outcome, and furthermore those who disagree with proposals will be more likely to provide comments.”

Mr Wayman comments: “The opinion expressed by people in local communities was that there was little point in taking part in the consultation as the county council had already made their minds up.” And he adds that the appendix “appears to give this view credence by dismissing all the negative views in the consultation”.