Having arranged to go on holiday a couple of days after our second panel meeting on 11th September I have only now had the chance to reflect on our session.
It was something like herding cats as a lot of people came with some pretty narrow issues they wanted to discuss at length in front of as many people as possible. The Gazette reported that 50 people turned up which I think was close to the mark. 50 cats is a lot of cats.
It was clear from the meeting that there is much discontent, especially amongst the business community, with the state of parking and loading in Ealing. Although some of the causes of this discontent are outside the scope of our panel, for instance the law itself and policy decisions like how do we use road space, we have recorded the gist of what was said and this will form a valuable input to our work. Thanks to all of those who came.
We had hoped to split the audience down into smaller groups to allow more people the opportunity to speak in the given time. We settled for two groups. The policy group was larger and noticeably more voluble. The service group which I participated in covered a wide range of issues productively as we had hoped.
It was all very well Patrick Kennedy from Ealing Chamber of Commerce telling the Gazette that “Action speaks louder than words” but this panel was never going to look at loading arrangements as he would have known if he had cared to read the papers. One reason we had hoped to divide the group was to avoid large amounts of time being hijacked by particular individuals with axes to grind, especially where we were not seeking to tackle that particular issue in the first place!
The Gazette report stated that “No one was brave enough to appear from the contractor APCOA, …” This is unfair. Two APCOA staff did attend and hear what was said. But the contractor and its representatives were neither invited nor expected to speak. The Council is big enough I think to face up to public criticism without putting its suppliers up to take the punishment on its behalf.
I hope that we will get an equally good attendance for our third meeting on 15th November even if it is a bit nerve wracking! At that meeting we will focus exclusively on the finances of Parking Services.