Councillors in Shaftesbury ward are writing

5 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert
I was wrong to wonder whether there are Councillors in Shaftesbury ward on Wednesday, as I received today an email from Paul Ellis (UPDATE: and another one from James Cousins later, that I replied at the end):

From : Paul Ellis (Cllr)
To : Cyril Richert
Date : Friday, 30 Jan 2009, 17.32pm
Object : RE: Public Meeting held on the 28/01/2009: report

Dear Mr Richert
Thank you for your email. I attended your meeting, and found it extremely helpful to hear the views of local residents about this development proposal.
I was a little surprised to read the comment on your website that the Shaftesbury Ward councillors have not been responding to local residents’ concerns about the application. I am not sure how you drew this conclusion because, as far as I am aware, my colleagues and I have responded to all the emails and letters we have received from concerned residents. As local residents ourselves we do have our personal opinions about the scheme, but I know you are aware that as councillors we have to be extremely careful about making our views publicly known before the matter is determined. I have checked my inbox, and the only emails I can find from you are the ones you sent to the Leader of the Council, which were copied to the other 59 councillors. Whilst I did, of course, read your comments carefully I assumed these were sent for information, and did not acknowledge them as I did not think there was any more I could add to Cllr Lister’s replies. If, however, you have written to me as your local councillor and not received a reply please accept my apologies for the oversight. Perhaps you would be kind enough to re-send your email and I will be pleased to assist you in any way I can.
Best wishes
Paul Ellis

Here is my answer:

Dear Mr Ellis,
First I thank you for your email. I am pleased to know that you were indeed in the room on Wednesday. I must apology if my comment about your silence was actually showing reserve. However I must welcome today the fact that you found eventually a way to raise your voice and show your concern.
I have no doubt that you know that the planning proposal will affect primarily three wards: Latchmere, Northcote and Shaftesbury. Early at the beginning of our campaign we had the occasion to hear from your Conservative Colleagues in Northcote ward, as Cllrs Johnson, Beddows and Dawson published in the Wandsworth Borough News of the 19th November 2008 a call to encourage residents to ensure that their views are submitted to the Council so that the Planning committee is fully aware of their views and comment when the application is considered. We relayed the article in a post here. I can only assume that you thought that Shaftesbury constituents did not need additional information.
Later, in December, I wrote to all the Councillors about our meeting organised in January. My email was sent on the 22nd December, and starts with “Dear Councillors, You will find attached the latest leaflet of the Clapham Junction Action Group […]“. I received a nice response from Cllr Philip Beddows on the same day, telling me he intends to be at the meeting, copying his two colleagues from Northcote Road. Later in this same evening, I received another email from Cllr Peter Dawson, confirming that the date of the public meeting was in his diary and questioning the impression we gave on the position of the Council. I had the occasion to answer here. In this response, my third point was actually directed toward the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward and I can only assume again that you missed it.
Regarding Latchmere ward, Tony Belton contacted me on the 14th November, spontaneously after receiving my leaflet, and we met later, after exchanging several emails. And on the same day of December when I received emails from the Councillors of Northcote ward, Cllr Leonie Cooper contacted me offering her help.
In addition, you must know that, albeit fully aware of the need for the members of the Planning Committee not to pre-determine the decision, I asked the majority of the Council to provide a speaker to answer general queries about the plan. In a recent post, I – again – regretted the silence of the Councillors of Shaftesbury ward.
Last but not least, as you were attending the Public Meeting on Wednesday, I am surprise you did not hear that I specifically regretted the silence of the Councillors of Shaftesbury ward (if you missed that part, I will email you personally when the video will be on the website, pointing at the very fine moment) and discovered it only on my report here. I encouraged Councillors to address the public: I heard Tony Belton, from Latchmere ward. I heard all the three Councillors of Northcote ward talking one after another. I did not hear you.
Feel absolutely free to add your comment to this post. Additionally, would  you like us to publish a separate response, just send it to me by email.
Best regards
Cyril Richert

No rest today 😉 As soon as I finished to answer to Cllr Ellis, Cllr James Cousins sent an email:

From: james Cousins
To : Cyril Richert
Date : Friday, 30 Jan 2009, 20.10pm
Object : RE: Public Meeting held on the 28/01/2009: report

Mr Richert,
Many thanks for this email and the attached link which I found very interesting. I do, however, have to take issue with your comment about the Shaftesbury councillors which isn’t terribly constructive.
After reading it I have checked through correspondence I have received and have answered all the messages I received on this subject. Obviously these were messages from residents who are not part of your group, or who have not brought my responses to your attention. I do not recall receiving any direct correspondence about the application that I have not responded to, and I have not been able to find any correspondence directed to me that has not had an answer.
I note there were several messages from you to the council leader on which I, and my colleagues, were cc recipients. My understanding (and I believe the usual email etiquette) is that cc recipients are copied for information, rather than response. When it comes to mass-mailings to councillors it is usual practice that one councillor, in this case it was the Leader, will respond on behalf of all recipients. If you were expecting individual responses I can only apologise for the misunderstanding.
Unfortunately a prior engagement meant I could not attend your public meeting. In any event, as you know, councillors are not able to comment on live planning applications as this might result in pre-determination, so even if I had been able to attend I do not think I could have added anything constructive that my council colleagues did not cover.
I, and my ward colleagues, are following the progress of the application closely and can assure that just because we have not corresponded directly with you on the matter does not mean we are in anyway absent.
James Cousins.

Here is my answer:

Dear Mr Cousins,
I refer to my response addressed to Cllr Ellis regarding some of the points raised in your letter. I welcome your email, albeit not agreeing on your comment about not being “terribly constructive”. The fact that I received two emails within a few hours after several months of campaigning shows a result.
In addition, I must correct your statement “In any event, as you know, councillors are not able to comment on live planning applications as this might result in pre-determination“. If you only needed an example, the fact that your colleagues, some of them even member of the Planning Committee, addressed the audience, shows that you are wrong to assume that your role as a councillor is to remain silent.
Best regards
Cyril Richert

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.