Northampton Bus Station – Public Debate

The public need the opportunity to be heard

Bus Station Issue Needs to be Resolved

Conservatives should hold a Public Meeting


Conservatives Bow to pressure and agree to hold a series of public debates.

I was accused last week of being “well of the mark” with the original blog in which I suggest that an on-line debate no matter how well run can never be as good as a face to face debate with the public.

At the Northampton Borough Council meeting tonight 12th March the Conservatives agreed to hold a “series of public debates” to give the public a chance to raise their questions with the Cabinet face to face.

It will now be for those who have strong opinions on the regeneration of the Bus Station whether for or against to take the opportunity once the dates of the debates are known to attend and make sure they are listened to and not ignored.

ORIGINAL BLOG published on 7th March 2012

The continuing debate over the demolition of the Bus Station and its relocation to the old Fishmarket Site is a demonstration of what happens if you believe that everything can be solved by simply putting out press releases rather than engage with the taxpaying public.

Whatever the pros and cons of the new bus interchange and the re-arrangement of the road network to allow buses to move around the town the way it has snowballed into a major issue will have come as a surprise to a Conservative administration that pride themselves on their ability to spin any issue to their advantage.

It is noticeable that the County Council who have responsibility for the design of the new Bus Interchange and highways restructuring have been very silent on the whole issue apart from the statement from the Leader of the NCC who said the cost of the design would not be a cost to the Borough Council.

A statement itself that is strangely amusing when you think that it is the people of Northampton who provide a huge chunk of the County Council income.

It has to be said Cllr David Mackintosh the Conservative Leader of the Borough Council did well in avoiding answering most of the questions whilst putting his scripted position forward in defending their position in an online debate forced on him by public pressure and facilitated by the Chronicle and Echo.

But as I found out prior to the election in May 2011, on-line debates and question and answer sessions is an excellent and easy way to put your position forward without having to actually face the public.

On line debates are carried out by the simple expedience of having answers pre-prepared that can be “cut and pasted” in response to questions, to be able to avoid answering some questions altogether and by being able to surround yourself with advisors who during the pauses between questions coming up on the screen advise you whether to answer or not.

It is very effective and free from the problem of having to face the people.

The other issue that those taking part understand only too well is that those likely to take part in the on-line debate are either “political plants” who naturally have been briefed to support you, or, the commonly and well-known “usual suspects” who are generally ignored and of course what is most important is the knowledge that the majority of people are either at work and unable to take part or haven’t access to a computer.

It’s a good trick and allows you to claim that you have consulted with the public which of course is misleading.

We now have a continuing saga that is going to be ongoing and if the Borough Conservatives are really serious about consultation and the re-development and expansion of the Grosvenor Centre is one that needs to be put to bed as soon as possible.

Make the public Welcome - Conservatives have to listen not ignore

It appears to me that there is a way, in which this can be done,

They should hold an Open meeting on a Saturday in the Guildhall where Councillor Mackintosh and his close friend and colleague Cllr Andre Gonzalez can face the public and put their joint position on the bus station and highway changes. Who know they might even take the opportunity to explain why they switched the streetlights off in sheltered housing areas?

Then at least they will be seen as having had the courage to come out from behind a computer and PR strategy to engage in a real public consultation.

The ball as they say is in their court, a failure convene and attend a public meeting will only increase the belief that both Conservative administrations are continuing to ignore and not listen to the people in Northampton.