As a matter of routine, we regularly assess our communication channels with the decision-makers at Newcastle council. We want to use and direct our volunteer time and resources where we can make a difference and where it has the best effect. As a consequence we have pulled out of the Newcastle Cycling Forum.
In a recent Campaign Management Committee we focussed on discussing the achievements of the council’s Cycling Forum and the unshifting relationship between the forum and the campaign. As a community group with a good track record of reliability, transparency, consistency in our message, high degree of professionalism and expertise and, most importantly, speaking for a group of people under-represented in society (current minority), we do believe we should be treated in a better manner by council than we currently are. We think, that the forum, under the leadership of its successive chairs, has not achieved the goals it sets out in its own Terms of Reference.
The ToR (attached below) is clear: education, promotion, consultation and monitoring & review of council plans and polices, budgets and programmes are the forum’s four aims, as well council’s promise to seek active engagement with community groups, by the promise of the opportunity to influence policy and plans. Through attending the forum we tried to work with our council on their plans and policies, budgets and programmes. And we agree with our council: we believe it’s our duty to scrutinise plans and policy and pass comments back to the council. And we believe it’s council’s duty to seek and engage in a meaningful dialogue.
In response to our engaged citizenship however, we have met with council’s resistance to share information and with dubious quality of plans. There also is a tendency to think, just because we have attended a meeting, that we automatically agree with council plans. This is rarely the case, especially when it’s often unclear what the plans are and how they are going about it. It was a rare occasion when a positive dialogue happened at the forum, given the lacking basics. And we’ve attended every forum meeting since our formation in 2010! It’s time to give it a rest, folks.
We have written to the forum’s chair and explained our position.
We will remain on the Technical Group discussing infrastructure, technical solutions, design and engineering. Other communication channels we are using are unaffected by our leaving the forum. These channels are
• meetings with relevant decision-makers and partners
• press releases
• news on our website
• giving presentations
• organising events
Here is a sample of unanswered questions:
2011 – https://newcycling.org/weve-written-cllr-nigel-todd
2013 – https://newcycling.org/news/council-forum-review