Pointless consultations

February 28, 2011 10:21 AM

Councils love spending taxpayers’ money on consultations as it gives the appearance of local democracy in action. But having spent tens of thousands of our pounds listening to us, it seems they then feel no obligation to abide by what we tell them.

In Bath, the council spent £40,000 conducting a Visitor Accommodation Study in which local businessmen and hoteliers were asked their opinion on how best to advance the tourist business in the city.  Its conclusion was that a measured expansion of accommodation over the next decade was the best approach, adding 256-376 rooms by 2016. This was approved by those businessmen involved in the consultation, but now it appears their views have been ignored as the council races ahead to approve planning consent for the building of two massive new hotels in the city centre that will bring in at least 600 rooms within the next couple of years—twice the council’s own recommendation.

Needless to say, the private hotel sector in Bath is up in arms, claiming a 40 per cent increase in hotel room stock just at a time when they are struggling to survive in a recession. ‘All within a few hundred yards of each other and all without parking,’ notes a local guest house owner. ‘This has been a clear lesson to us that “our leaders” are not listening, even to their own independent studies that they use our money to pay for.’ Quite so.

Tim Newark, Bath & South West TaxPayers’ AllianceCouncils love spending taxpayers’ money on consultations as it gives the appearance of local democracy in action. But having spent tens of thousands of our pounds listening to us, it seems they then feel no obligation to abide by what we tell them.

In Bath, the council spent £40,000 conducting a Visitor Accommodation Study in which local businessmen and hoteliers were asked their opinion on how best to advance the tourist business in the city.  Its conclusion was that a measured expansion of accommodation over the next decade was the best approach, adding 256-376 rooms by 2016. This was approved by those businessmen involved in the consultation, but now it appears their views have been ignored as the council races ahead to approve planning consent for the building of two massive new hotels in the city centre that will bring in at least 600 rooms within the next couple of years—twice the council’s own recommendation.

Needless to say, the private hotel sector in Bath is up in arms, claiming a 40 per cent increase in hotel room stock just at a time when they are struggling to survive in a recession. ‘All within a few hundred yards of each other and all without parking,’ notes a local guest house owner. ‘This has been a clear lesson to us that “our leaders” are not listening, even to their own independent studies that they use our money to pay for.’ Quite so.

Tim Newark, Bath & South West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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