Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Council Waste No 99: Neighbourhood Partnerships

The Meadows, much discussed at the NP
In the last 3+ years Edinburgh Council has set up another layer of bureaucracy.   It is called Neighbourhood Partnerships.  

Like most things that are wasteful, it is based on a noble idea and results in a number of positives.  The noble idea is to engage more citizens in public decisions.  And it does provide a forum for public engagement.  Some decisions are taken by a wider range of people.  There may well be a few other benefits.  But that is about it.

Take the South Central Neighbourhood Partnership meeting which I attended earlier this week.  It represents two wards which contain 60+ thousand people.  Here is the attendance register:
  • Members of the public: 13 of whom one, possibly two were not recognised by me as people who always attend these events
  • Persons on the Council payroll:  13 of whom six were councillors, the remainder officials
  • Other representatives:  6 who included public officials (such as the St Leonard's Police Sergeant) and others who are mainly representatives of community councils
Most of those who attend are committed people who expend considerable energy in their duty and interests.   But is it a good use of resources and public resources?

Here are the key things which are wrong with the Neighbourhood Partnerships:
  • They dilute responsibility and accountability.  
  • They often duplicate decisions and work done (or which should be done) by other bodies such as community councils, council departments and officials, councillors, full council
  • They are a shockingly inefficient in the use of time and energy of both council officials and of those who attend.  Council officials could be using the time to deliver services to a higher standard  - rather than the distraction Neighbourhood Partnerships have become
  • Their achievements have been very limited.  Work is created for them to do and to create the illusion of 'community involvement'
  • Many members of the South Central Neighbourhood Partnership are extremely frustrated by the lack of progress or achievement.  For many the Neighbourhood Partnership demotivates participants.
  • The are a poor use of human and financial resources.
There is much, much more  At the meeting I recommended dissolution be investigated - but those on the Partnership board did not agree.  Perhaps it was asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. A step too far.   I am confident that reality will reign before long.


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