Conservatives fail to change Kingston Council consultation procedures

Kingston’s Conservatives were unsuccessful in their attempt to change the council’s consultation procedures at a virtual meeting of the full council on Tuesday evening.

The opposition’s motion on consultation in the borough was passed but only after a Liberal Democrats’ amendment removed all resolutions proposed, substituting them for points repeating Kingston Council’s existing approach.

Leader of the Opposition, councillor Kevin Davis, said: “The amendment that you [the Lib Dems] have put changes nothing.

“It’s just a restoration of business-as-usual and you’re clearly not listening.”

Conservative councillor Jason Hughes, who proposed the original motion, said the outcome was “a wasted opportunity”.

The Conservative motion raised concerns over how Kingston Council consults with its residents on its activities, calling its approach fragmented, inconsistent and lacking in oversight.

Ian Georg, the Conservative councillor who seconded the motion, said: “This Liberal Democrat run council is a ‘consultational’ disaster zone, either by design or incompetence.”

Georg referred to the recent imposition of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

He said: “It’s understandable that quick decisions need to be made but it shouldn’t be beyond this council to carry out a quick consultation. 

“Not only is this the right thing to do but our residents deserve to be listened to.”

The motion proposed that the council join the Consultation Institute, an organisation specialising in training best practices for public engagement, and that a centralized Consultation Team be created to manage and audit consultation with borough residents.

Lib Dem councillor Tim Cobbett, who introduced the amendment, said what was proposed by the opposition would not help meet the challenge of engagement and consultation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked in any organisation where setting up a new central unit in the Chief Executive’s office has ever been the answer to any genuine problem that I’ve encountered,” he said.

The amendment reiterated the council’s commitment to the Community Engagement Framework it launched last year, and to its existing networked module of using neighbourhood/strategic committees to consult and engage with residents.

The amendment was carried by a vote of 37 for and 10 against.

The amended motion was then carried by 36 votes for and three against, with eight abstentions.

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