Huntingdonshire neighbourhood forums ‘at risk’ say HDC chairman

THE FUTURE of neighbourhood forums where members of the public air their concerns on a range of issues including crime and disorder is under review, it has been revealed.

Huntingdonshire District �Council has confirmed it is looking into the effectiveness of the quarterly forums, held in Huntingdon, St Ives, Ramsey, St Neots and in north-west Huntingdonshire.

At the forums, which bring together representatives from Cambridgeshire County Council, district, town and parish councils, National Health Service, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and social landlord Luminus, three priorities are identified for the area, which can often include recurrent anti-social behaviour or parking issues.

A letter on behalf of HDC’s overview and scrutiny committee, asking town and parish councillors to comment on attendance and engagement levels at the forums, was due to be sent out this week.

HDC chairman Councillor Jeff Dutton told members of Huntingdon Town Council last week that the forum could be scrapped because not enough crime was being reported.

“The neighbourhood forums do not do what is intended of them. Not many policing issues have been raised at these meetings. Over the last series of meetings only seven or eight were raised. All the other issues could be dealt with by NHS professionals or allocated councillors.”

An HDC spokesman said no decision had been made. “The overview and scrutiny panel at the end of last month set up a working group to look at how neighbourhood forums are working.

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“The decision is nowhere near being made. They have written to parish and town councils to see whether they think they are working, how we can improve them and to ask their opinions.”

A working party has been set up by Cambridgeshire County Council to review Area Joint Committee (AJC) meetings. The meetings between district and county councillors and members deal primarily with road safety issues.

It was through an AJC that funding was agreed for a light-controlled crossing on the A141, at the spot Huntingdon teenager Warren Hay was killed in 2008.

Cllr Dutton said: “Most of the decisions are made by the county council before the AJC meetings. They are ‘talking shops’. On the odd occasion we might be able to turn them. But if AJCs disappear, we could lose our influence. We want to prevent the vacuum by making sure we get the town and parishes involved early.”

A CCC spokesman said: “There are some proposals to review the governance on the committees. A joint working party, which meets for the first time next month, will decide whether or not they will continue.”