Consultation is so often a sham

Great article by Carole Sarler in today’s Observer. People in her street in Haringey are being consulted over how to reduce traffic speeds in the area and are being asked obscure questions about whether they prefer humps to speed tables or whatever.
All this has come through her door in an expensive glossy brochure for which the council refuses to disclose the cost. Sarler makes the apt point that she has no idea about highway engineers and just wants the experts to get on with it.
Too right. In these days of consumer sensitivity and obsession with ‘rights’, government agencies are always seeking the views of local people. I have been to ghastly consultation meetings over controlled parking zones where there is inevitably a ‘Mr Angry’ who makes the most noise and the least sense.
Look, for example, at the huge amount of hot air over the extension of the congestion zone in west London. Ridiculously, Kensington residents got into a lather over the scheme even though it meant that they would only pay 10 per cent of the congestion fee which would then allow them to drive throughout the zone, including the old part in central London. In other words, many of them are now getting a cheaper deal.
Not surprisingly, since the introduction of the zone in February, there has been virtual silence which means that it has been a success. Democracy is about a balance between elected members making decisions on our behalf, while ensuring that there is broad support for the outcome – and that’s the crucial point. We all want a more environmentally sustainable world but sometimes in the short term difficult and possibly unpopular decisions will have to be made. That is why less consultation and more action should be the norm. Instead, politicians all too often hide behind consultation to avoid making tough decisions which ultimately will benefit all of us.

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