Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Killing of the RAG

A murder story? But we already know who dunnit.

The RAG was killed off having reached the age of 11 in 2012. And so far no sign of its promised replacement.

Could this be Ragnarok  - destruction of the old order and the still-awaited birth of the new?
Or Ragout – a kind of stew ?

RAG means R.A.G. Reserve Advisory Group – for Blacka Moor.

One commenter claimed that what contributed to its death was a reluctance of management to cope with serious scrutiny of its policy and decision making which included some well-informed and some less well-informed criticism and some well informed and some less well-informed approval.  (and some occasional RAGGING?)

I would add to that by observing they didn't like answering questions at all, preferring to conduct their operations outside the public gaze which always threatened to expose their inadequacies.

The RAG was set up to give the public engagement with SRWTs management of Blacka.  For some of the public its purpose was seen as a chance to oversee what was happening, scrutinise, inform and influence management – not something in this town you can expect councillors or officers to do. But for SWT this was seen rather differently – as a kind of feeble Focus Group at which they contrived to inform 'the public' – a small group of users hopefully paying little attention- about their work programme. 

Blacka Moor’s Reserve Advisory Group was set up when SWT took over management in 2001. Meetings went on until 2012. At first they were held every two months but gradually frequency declined to twice a year then stopped altogether. 

The RAG meetings were indoors and could be attended by anyone who found out they were happening. There were many problems with the way that SWT ran these meetings leading to a dwindling attendance of those who were there at the early stages.

When SWT took the decision that there would be no more RAG meetings they didn’t bother to tell those of us who had regularly attended over more than ten years -  thus demonstrating our commitment to Blacka - and we were left waiting, fobbed off by delays and excuses as we waited for the notification of the next meeting. These managers and their backers feigned not to understand why this left a somewhat bitter taste.

It later transpired that this example of consultation and public engagement had been deemed a failure and would be replaced by something else. The 'deemers' were the SWT itself and certain officers of SCC who have never themselves been subject to serious scrutiny. 

This new post RAGnarok public engagement world order turned out to be a two tier system (this could be where the Ragout stew comes in.) 
a) a public Users Forum for anyone and 
b) a Conservation Group for those people who supported SRWT and were fully behind their management plan. (slavishly?)

But we are now three years later and that system is still not happening. At least there's no evidence that it is; unless, and here's a possibility, it's working secretly in some darkened rooms. After all that is the consequence of handing over public assets to private groups with no built in requirement for transparency. Can this get any worse?

 Don't hold your breath.

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