Last Wednesday night, the Council met to reconvene the meeting that was adjourned following disruptions back in December.
On the Agenda was the Local Plan – an extremely important plan for Knowsley’s future development and something that has been carefully developed over the past six years. That development process has included extensive public consultation, meetings and hearings – in fact, an independent Government Planning Inspector has confirmed that the council has gone beyond what was legally required of us to make sure that the public were given the chance to express their views. That’s an important point, because many of the protestors have alleged that we haven’t given the opportunity to get involved.
Unfortunately, the meeting was once again disrupted – this time by a large group of protestors determined to do all they could just to prevent the meeting from taking place. This included continual shouting from the public gallery, blowing whistles, banging tables and people refusing to be seated and blocking the exit/entry routes for members of the public, councillors and officers.
The full footage of the meeting is available to view on the council’s YouTube channel. I would urge you to watch it for yourself so that you can form your own opinions on what took place.
This council is not against reasoned discourse with our residents. We provide time for public questions at Council meetings when they are submitted in advance so as to allow us to provide full and informed answers and also so that we can set an agenda for the meeting. Very often, the questions we are asked come from people who disagree with the council’s policies on various matters – that is fine with me and with my fellow councillors, and in fact it is exactly why we provide time for questions on the agenda. All we ask is that people’s conduct at the meetings is appropriate. It was interesting that some members of the public who were in attendance at the meeting later took to social media to condemn the behaviour of others.
The Local Plan is a critically important plan for Knowsley and it has not been agreed without years of careful consideration and consultation with our residents. There have been many, many opportunities since 2009 for people to express their concerns, ask questions and make comments in person and in writing – and plenty of residents have done this in the proper way. All of these questions and concerns have been given due consideration not only by the council but also by the independent Government Inspector who oversaw the whole process.
Irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with the council’s eventual decision, I think that most people would agree with me that it is just not acceptable to behave in a way that involves constant shouting, interruptions and aggressive behaviour. And neither is it acceptable for council staff or councillors to feel intimidated and in some cases threatened by members of the public simply for doing their jobs.
The conduct of some people at the meeting is regrettable but I do not apologise for continuing with the meeting and ensuring that the business was concluded.