Put to the ques­tion

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS - TTOONNNYYY JJOOHHNNSSOONN caveat.lec­tor@icloud.com

IN OLDEN days, heretics were ‘put to the ques­tion’ by their tor­tur­ers in or­der to get at the truth. These days, no­body ex­pects the Span­ish In­qui­si­tion, but politi­cians are an­swer­able for what they do on our be­half.

And whether ques­tions are from mem­bers of the pub­lic or coun­cil­lors, the aim is to discover what’s hap­pen­ing.

So while it can feel like tor­ture to ask a ques­tion, it can be tor­ture to an­swer one.

With Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil (WBC) they’re given by the rel­e­vant ex­ec­u­tive or deputy ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber (EM/DEM).

An­swers can be Ed­u­ca­tional

Back in spring 2017 when

WBC was un­der dif­fer­ent man­age­ment, a lo­cal group asked ques­tions about the Bor­ough’s schools. As the EM was at a par­ent teacher meet­ing, the DEM stood up in­stead.

A few ques­tions later and even skilled ob­servers of coun­cil meet­ings couldn’t un­der­stand how the re­sponses matched the ques­tions. In­stead of ask­ing dif­fi­cult sup­ple­men­taries, what hap­pened was re­ally un­fair.

They just asked the original ques­tions again.

“Splut­ter … writ­ten an­swer? … splut­ter … later?”

The EM’s ar­rival couldn’t come soon enough.

So the first learn­ing for those de­liv­er­ing an an­swer is to make sure you’ve got one.

Prefer­ably an­swer­ing the ques­tion that’s been asked.

Ar­rest that coun­cil!!!

At Septem­ber’s coun­cil meet­ing, ques­tions were asked by ten­ant mem­bers of WBC’s ten­ant and land­lord im­prove­ment panel (TLIP).

The first ques­tion en­quired how WBC pro­posed to rem­edy the ur­gent sit­u­a­tion be­cause “the coun­cil is cur­rently in breach of its statu­tory du­ties”.

In breach??? Statu­tory duty??? Hold on, that’s fight­ing talk. Usu­ally from lawyers claim­ing that what you’re do­ing is against the law.

The DEM apol­o­gised for the Coun­cil’s over­sight and promised it wouldn’t hap­pen again. Wow – an apol­ogy. But it’s an ad­mis­sion of guilt in pub­lic isn’t it?

Now where are you going to find a po­lice­man at eight o’clock in the evening? By co­in­ci­dence, the very next agenda item was be­ing pre­sented by Francis Hab­good – chief con­sta­ble for Thames Val­ley Po­lice.

So the sec­ond learn­ing is to avoid self-in­crim­i­na­tion on any topic that gives the chief con­sta­ble cause to ar­rest the whole coun­cil.

Free park­ing – here, there, ev­ery­where

As the min­is­ter for pot­holes jams, and ‘P’ has said in this pa­per, he op­poses “P for free” as WBC’s park­ing data shows us­age is up dur­ing the sum­mer.

Also that the new multi-storey Car­ni­val Pool car park has 15 min­utes free. Has any­one timed the walk to the shops?

How­ever, the min­is­ter for jams got him­self into one an­swer­ing a ques­tion on the Wood­ley park­ing trial be­cause WBC hasn’t got the park­ing data.

Hmmm – he has or he hasn’t got the park­ing data. Would he make his mind up please?

Nat­u­rally, you can “P for free” when you’re in a traf­fic jam.

A ques­tion on co-or­di­nat­ing road­works led the min­is­ter for pot­holes try­ing to find one to hide in. If we’re to un­der­stand the an­swer, road­works are well co­or­di­nated and if Coun­cil­lors want to know about them in ad­vance they can jolly well look them up on road­works.org.

So the third learn­ing is to make sure your an­swers are log­i­cal and cred­i­ble.

It’s not per­sonal, it’s strictly busi­ness

The Bor­ough’s vi­sion is to be “a great place to live, an even bet­ter place to do busi­ness.” So, with

WBC un­der new man­age­ment the cre­ation of a Min­is­ter of Busi­ness (MoB) should be good.

With work on Peach Place and Market Place at the same time, trade has crashed.

While high street chains should sur­vive, the in­de­pen­dents might not. Al­legedly the MoB didn’t at­tend the traders’ meet­ing to un­der­stand / ad­dress their con­cerns.

But it was in­spir­ing to hear at Septem­ber’s Coun­cil meet­ing his re­port of good news as to how well su­per­fast broad­band is going.

Per­haps if he’d vis­ited Hatch Farm ear­lier this year, he’d have dis­cov­ered that broad­band was nei­ther su­per nor fast.

So the fourth learn­ing is mak­ing sure your ma­te­rial is help­ful and timely.

A plan so cun­ning you could …

Amidst this com­edy / tragedy, WBC’s Lo­cal Plan Up­date is try­ing to pre­vent the bor­ough from be­ing com­pletely con­creted over.

A coun­cil­lor’s sup­ple­men­tary ques­tion at Septem­ber’s WBC ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing scored a bulls­eye but, as the ques­tion had come across as an an­swer, what fol­lowed was the an­swer com­ing across as a ques­tion (ac­tu­ally two, but who’s count­ing) :

Q1: “Hav­ing given plan­ning per­mis­sions to over 11,000 homes, why are Wok­ing­ham’s res­i­dents be­ing pe­nalised for the de­vel­op­ers’ fail­ure to build them ?

Q2: “Starter homes have gone from nearly nine times av­er­age earn­ings in 2014 to around eleven times av­er­age earn­ings in 2016. Why has the bor­ough’s hous­ing num­ber be­ing pe­nalised ar­bi­trar­ily for un­af­ford­abil­ity when prices are con­trolled by de­vel­op­ers?

This it isn’t just about our lo­cal hous­ing market. The plan­ning sys­tem, the plan­ning in­spec­torate, and the DCLG aren’t look­ing good ei­ther.

The Last Word

If you love con­crete, ev­ery­thing’s fine.

But if you’re un­happy that our green fields and Lon­don’s green belt are dis­ap­pear­ing, it’s time for you to con­sider putting some of the coun­try’s MPs to the ques­tion.

The four serv­ing the bor­ough are: Theresa May (north­ern); Matt Rodda (mid-west); Dr Philip Lee (mid-east); and John Red­wood (cen­tral, west­ern and south­ern parishes).

And while con­stituency MPs put ques­tions to gov­ern­ment min­is­ters on our be­half, they need to un­der­stand our con­cerns.

Its time to write to your MP.

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