Thursday, 14 March 2013

We wrote to the Ombudsman

Lorraine wrote thus to the Ombudsman, 

On Behalf of W.P.C.C.G

To Whom it may Concern,
I am writing to complain to the council in relation to the temporary closure of the West Wark Centre in November 2012.

I wish to highlight the following two points in relation to my complaint
1-There was a clear lack of consideration given to the initial consultation process and then in turn there was not enough heed given to the views expressed by users of the centre. In short the public consultation was inadequate.

2-The Centre was not valued correctly either in a) monetary terms or b) in human terms (ie how many people use the centre)

In relation to point 1
`requirments of a fair consultation process are well known and must adhere to the following.
(i)             Consulation must take place when the proposal is still in a formative stage. (I believe this not to be the case)
(ii)           Sufficient reasons must be put forward for the proposal to allow intelligent consideration and response. (This point was not honoured)

In order for a consulation process to be deemed as fair it must follow the correct procedure.
Fairness in consultation requires that sufficient information about the findings and criteria relied on by the decision maker is given to the consultees (ie the centre users) to enable them to effectively change/make representation upon

       The accuracy of the underlying facts

The validity of the criteria evaluation process on which decisions are made.

Adequate time must be given for consideration and response.

The product of consulation (ie responses and opinions of centre users) must be conscientiously taken into account-this has clearly not been the case in relation to the closure of the West park Centre.

I conclude that there was non-disclosure to relevant consultees of information central to the possible outcomes in terms of  this consulation. I believe that decisions regarding the centre were made prior to any consultation process and that any meetings held were simply a formality. I believe no major decisions were altered/made in direct response to the needs of the community of Leeds who use the Centre.

The Centre is used by many groups. I wish to high light the fact that many of the users do have disabilities. They represent to some extent some of the most vulnerable members of our society. At West Wark which has disabled access and adequate parking/loading. In using the centre, people who would otherwise be isolated individuals were brought together to work creatively. In some instances these activities led to community engagement which is impossible to place a value on.

Regarding the reason given for the closure (The faulty electrics) it has been stated by myself and countless others who are now members of the W.P.C.C.G (The West Park Centre Campaign Group) that there was no difference in previous reports in relation to the electrics. If the electrics were unsafe in November 2012 then they were equally unsafe inva previous report given in 2009.

Also it is well known that the centre was opened after the electrics were declared unsafe for a Russian dance group to perform. If there was serious risk to life and limb then why was the centre re-opened?

I represent myself as a member of the community. I represent Musical Arc which is a charity which supports disabled people to compose and perform music. I also represent the W.P.C.C.G (a group formed in response to the closure)

We request transparency relating to the economic gain which the council stands to make in relation to the decisions surrounding the land which West park now stands.
We request urgently that the electrics are fixed and that users are allowed back into the community building which housed so many wonderful people and activities.
When West Park was closed it destroyed people’s lives and people's livelihoods. It has affected hundreds of people on a personal, financial and spiritual and creative basis. A full enquiry must be held. There is money within the council to spend on the community. We can not keep justifying decisions which are made on this scale by saying “we need to make cuts” We can not allow the very fabric of our society to be eroded by decisions of finance. There is money out there and it is constantly being spent.

I believe that the centre closure and the reasons given for the sudden closure were pre meditated on financial grounds. I believe that the centre has been allowed to be “Run down” I believe there has been a background conversation in relation to closure for over 10 years. I believe that the closure and the way it was handled is bordering on fraud.

I request a reponse within 10 working days.


J Lorraine Cowburn

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