'Barking mad' council forum plan

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Plans to hold a council meeting outdoors during a dog show have been branded "barking mad".

Coun Mark Jewell, chairman of Preston Council's Western area forum, wants to hold the next meeting in Ashton Park while the annual Ruffs Dog show takes place on Saturday, June 6.

But the move sparked criticism among fellow members of the forum, which allows residents of Ashton, Ingol, Larches and Lea to raise local issues.

The meeting was due to take place at the Intag base in Ingol on May 21, and representatives from Stagecoach were due to attend. However, since Coun Jewell took the decision to move to Ashton Park, Intag has become unavailable on that date.

Coun Jewell, who represents the Larches ward, said the date was changed so as to "de-politicise" the meeting by having it after the Lancashire County Council elections.

He said he hoped it would mean more than the 11 people who attended the last Western area forum would be able to attend.

And he said: "It's an effort to do something different and for us to be more accessible to people.

"I think there's broad consensus and agreement with what we're trying to do. We have to try something different because I don't think, by any stretch of the imagination, it's working at the moment (traditional area forums).

"I'm convinced it'll be a worthwhile event for accessing council services and officers, and for the councillors to listen to what residents have got to say.

"We're here to represent people and we should be accessible to them."

Coun Christine Abram, who represents Lea, said: "He's barking mad."

"It's ridiculous. If he wants to have a drop-in session for people to chat to him on the park, that's fine, but it's not an area forum.

"I agree with taking politics out to the people, but it's not an area forum meeting and it never can be. Can you imagine if they all started to do them in the middle of a field day?"

The meeting will not take the form of a usual area forum but will see representatives from various council departments and other organisations on hand to speak to members of the public at the event.

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