The Isle of Wight councillor for East Cowes, Karl Love, walked out of the first meeting of the Cowes floating bridge User Group after just 20 minutes, describing it as a “politically constructed quango”.
Following last night’s (Monday) meeting at East Cowes Town Hall, Cllr Love told OnTheWight,
“I challenged its membership construction and the self appointed chair, Cllr Ian Ward, to be open and transparent. It was clear, in my view, that he and officers intended to govern the group as they like and impose predetermined principals and rules.”
He went on to say,
“I challenged the fact that it’s a closed meeting to the public and said that it should be open. I stated I don’t believe it to be transparent and there was a refusal to by them to include the East Cowes User Group [Floating Bridge Stakeholders Group. Ed] as a knowledgable bona fide member.
“Cllr Ward described them as a political group and activists.”
Ward refutes accusation
Cllr Ward has since refuted the accusation, telling OnTheWight,
“I have never heard of the East Cowes User Group and I have never called them political activists. I have met with a group in County Hall who I did once describe as activists (but not political!).”
He went on to say,
“This User Group was set up by Council Officers at the recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee, the agenda was produced by officers, they selected the members.”
“Contempt” for local people
At Isle of Wight council Scrutiny Committee meetings, the Floating Bridge Stakeholders Group (made up of many engineers with decades of experience) were told by Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart, that they would be included.
Cllr Love says,
“This group has worked hard to provide information, but the fact they were not invited and the language used by Cllr Ward, in my view, makes a clear statement of contempt for a group of local people who have tried hard to bring to light many of the facts and made positive suggestions.”
Love: “Manipulation and control”
The councillor for East Cowes, went on to say,
“I believe in transparency and inclusion and, in my view, by excluding the general public from a public involvement user group meeting reeks of manipulation and control.
“It appears to me that the meeting has randomly-selected six people from more than 100 users who registered and while that is positive, I believe this only represents part of the community.
“However, as we did not witness the selection process or have been included in the construction process of any of the methodology processes in establishing an agenda, the methodology or its terms of reference, to me, it smacks of political manipulation. This should have been agreed and done with the local members.
“It seems, in my view, that Cllr Ward knows nothing of community engagement and inclusive practice.”
Love: “Contrived for political purposes”
Cllr Love finished by saying,
“This meeting is not what I believed to be agreed at Scrutiny, nor what I agreed to participate in. I will not participate in something which I feel to be contrived for political or managerial purpose and its manipulation of outcomes.
“How can it be a user group meeting with just six independent users and other users actively prevented from participating.”
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox: “It was a worthwhile meeting”
OnTheWight also spoke to the Isle of Wight councillor for Cowes, Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox who also attended the meeting.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox told us that in her view it was “a worthwhile meeting” and covered some “really good stuff”.
She explained the six members of the public on the User Group had been randomly selected from 100 entrants who are registered with saver cards and included residents from east and west Cowes.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox: “Lost confidence in Bridge”
The ward councillor for Cowes told those at the meeting that she had “lost confidence” in the Floating Bridge, not knowing when she left home whether she’d be able to get across the river in time to catch a ferry.
She reminded officers and the Chairman that over 18 months ago she’d recommended the IWC buy a passenger launch boat in order to avoid having to pay £1,000 for the use of a commercial one every time the bridge failed.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox finished by commenting on Cllr Love leaving the meeting early, saying as much as she could understand why he did it,
“If you’re not at the table you’ve got no input.”
It is hoped the meetings will be held every three months.
26.9.2018 – Comments from Cllr Peacey-Wilcox added.
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh