Last night I attended the Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum – a three-monthly meeting to allow the people of Swale to meet and ask questions of their councillors and other council representatives.
The forum is a good idea – just a shame that it wasn’t very well advertised as the room was full of councillors and representatives but hardly any members of the public. I only found out about it through a Lib Dem Members Newsletter.
But they didn’t miss much. The first half of the session was very much back patting, ‘aren’t we doing well’ etc. Two senior policemen were particularly pleased with themselves which did not impress me. I’ve had to report anti-social behaviour several times including eggs and stones thrown at the house and promised a visit by a PCSO on three occasions. And gangs of kids regularly congregate in the road with never a police uniform in sight.
The walk from Sittingbourne station through the town centre after dark to get to the meeting past several characters was a nervy experience in itself – although to be fair I did witness one very brave policeman taking on an unruly family who had overdone the lager (and language) somewhat.
So why didn’t I say this at the meeting? Because the chairman only allowed questions at the end – by which time of course the meeting had moved on. One lady, more formidable than I, made good points about communication regarding hate crime and got I felt rather patronising responses.
Things much improved after that – with an interesting activity over voluntary services, a look at spending on certain projects, and a discussion on the regeneration plan – so the whole evening was not a waste of time. It was all very interesting to witness.
I will be back in January - and I will try to encourage more ordinary people to attend.