The first round of Brent Area Consultative Forums have begun since the new Council was elected. My local Kingsbury ACF took place on 21st July. The new chair, Cllr Kana Naheerathan (far right of picture, during presentation by transport officer) made a good impression by first moving that the minutes of the last meeting be approved. Ahem, did he say "minutes"?
Notwithstanding the prolonged difficulties faced by residents at this meeting to have material points accurately reported in the past, administrators of the forums have now decided that minutes will be called "notes" instead! Under insistence by local resident Robert Dunwell that the meeting be advised of the concealed reason for the change in nomenclature, Owen Thomson of the consultation team replied that "due to government cut-backs, and efficiency savings", it would be less expensive to take "notes" rather than "minutes".
But which came first, the presumed expense and inconvenience of correcting minutes that should have been accurate in the first place? Or the desire to find a pretext to avoid such embarrassment from occuring in future?
Six meetings, and twenty months after a fateful admission by the Civic Centre Project director in November 2008 that the Council hadn't consulted on the civic centre - and the mistaken follow-up notion that they didn't need to - the closest we have got to drawing a line under accuracy of minutes, sorry notes, is as follows:
"A concern regarding the accuracy of the recording of the discussion on the new civic centre, which had taken place at the Forum meeting held on 5th November 2008, was again raised and another request to amend the notes was made. In response to this request, Christine Collins explained the constitutional arrangements of the Area Forums. Following this, she stated that whilst the notes of the meeting, which were being disputed, would not be amended, the concerns of those present regarding this issue had been noted." [Minutes/Notes of 2 Feb 2010]
Translation of this Note into accurate Minute: whilst the notes [sic. minutes] of the meeting, which were being disputed [sic. challenged both inside and outside the meeting], would not be amended [sic. corrected], the concerns of those present regarding this issue had been noted [sic. ignored].
The consequences of pursuing an ill-conceived civic centre are warned against in my letter in the Wembley Observer. (15 July 2010)
The consequences of pursuing a strategy of systematically falsifying minutes, and lowering the expectation that accuracy is required in the first place, is to sabotage local democracy by concealing truth.
Accurate minutes cannot be "too expensive". They are indispensible in exposing the true cost of bad decision-making, when it occurs, and in allowing us to scrutinise politicians.