Concern forums are not working properly

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Forums meant to pinpoint investment throughout South Ribble have been critisied for “serial absenteeism” and a lack of record keeping.

Coun David Howarth, who sits on the Penwortham Neighbourhood Forum, has complained that the scheme, which replaced area committees in 2011, is too informal.

He said: “The forums are diarised as meetings, but no minutes are taken and no attendance records are kept. Because of this, if a member of public makes a suggestion or asks for funding, then nobody would know and there would be no feedback.

“There are also serial absentees among the councillors on the foums, and my view is that attendance should be recorded as if they were any other council meetings.”

He added: “I don’t think that we’ll end up going back to the old style, but we have to make the best out of a bad job.”

Coun Phil Smith, cabinet member in charge of forums, said the council had taken a deliberate step away from area committees which were “no longer fit for purpose”, but he will look at attendances.

He said: “The forums are much more informal, and rather than being led by minutes and agendas, they are led by the wishlists of improvements that communities have given us. People are welcome to drop in to discuss ideas or concerns with their local councillors, their neighbours and other service providers, and they can stay for as little or as long as they like.”

He added: “There are still ways in which people can formally raise service requests or questions at the forums, which are dealt with the next day. We therefore won’t be taking the backwards step of returning to the methods which weren’t working, although I am looking at formalising the way in which we record the attendance of councillors at our forums in future.”

The Ribble Gateway feature at Priory Park and the Hutton war memorial have come from forum ideas.