‘OPENNESS, transparency, community engagement, inclusiveness, consultation – you don’t know the meaning of the words!’.
These comments by Labour councillor Reg Jones were applauded by 80 protesters who packed Cheshire West and Chester Council’s executive meeting in opposition to the Tory authority’s decision to put a homeless shelter in the Boughton community.
Residents were incensed the decision was taken behind closed doors but have now been told there will be a three month consultation – although they are disappointed this won’t consider whether Richmond Court is the right location.
Addressing council leader Mike Jones and the administration generally, Cllr Reg Jones continued: “Especially you as the leader, people look to you for leadership and time and time again you let our communities down. Secrecy, deceit, arrogance, lacking integrity – these are words you are collectively defined by.”
Tory Cllr Gareth Anderson said he had ‘huge sympathy’ for the residents present and agreed the case ‘needs to be treated and be seen to be treated openly in a way in which they can influence’.
He supported the Tory administration’s position that the consultation timetable was sometimes dictated by the procurement process which ultimately saw the contract to deliver homeless services – including Richmond Court – awarded to Chester & District Housing Trust and Forum Housing.
Cllr Anderson cautioned: “We consult people to find views, to find ideas, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the council is always going to be able to follow what they say.”
Residents Against Richmond Court are planning a programme of protests and considering legal action. Campaigner Andreas Vogt said of the council consultation: “That is not consultation at all, it is merely giving information on what they are planning to do.”