Monday, 13 February 2012

Burmantofts and Richmond Hill Neighbourhood Survey 2012

“Do you like where you live? What would you change to make it better?”

“This survey is being undertaken on behalf of all the agencies that work in the area and the Council’s Inner East Area Committee”, and the sad thing is that they couldn’t find in all these “agencies” one single person who could compile a decent questionnaire!!

In fact, the “questionnaire” is SO WRONG that it’s hard to tell how to make it better..perhaps starting all over again?

First and foremost, it only provides if any, a very small space to add comments and answers to open questions. This is either a huge oversight, or a deliberate and shameful attempt to discourage residents from actually giving their own opinion. But, as I have to remind myself often, we shouldn’t look for conspiracies, if blatant inadequacy might be the answer..

It also often only gives two choices YES/NO with no other possibility such as “Maybe” “unsure”” prefer not to say” etc.

So, let’s forget about the one thing that has improved in the area (Q2) and the one thing (Q2) that hasn’t, and proceed to environmental improvements (Q3).

What is the purpose of this question? Do you think ANYONE actually likes graffiti, litter, vandalism and dog mess? NO. No one likes the above, and yet they are not removed.

As for environmental improvements we would like to see, well, what about cleaning the streets AFTER the bin collections instead of one day BEFORE? (That would have made a fine LCC survey question..)

What about flagstone pavements taken out for maintenance works being returned instead of taken away for good? (I would also like to know where did LCC take them, but I can’t really ask, due to short space for Q5: Let us know of any other you would like to see..I would like to see the flagstones back.)

Or what about better security of boarded up former Council buildings that fall prey to theft and antisocial behaviour on a daily basis in Richmond Hill.

Oh.., let’s go to the next session “Employment, Training, Schools”.

This is a funny one, because there is no mention of employment opportunities, training or schools that one would expect to find under such heading.

Instead there are one and a half pages (out of 6 in total, so much for “neighbourhood” survey) of badly thought of, intrusive personal questions about YOU the respondent.

What is LCC aim to get out of those? These questions have already been answered in some detail at the last census and they will soon be available. How is LCC going to deal with this personal information it gets? Who will be responsible for it?

Plus, if the purpose of them is to ascertain the level of employment, then again, a lot is missing: we know from research that the biggest cause of poverty in our neighbourhoods is not “unemployment” but “underemployment”, ie part time, badly paid shift work. And yet “part time” employment is not even mentioned!!!!

Things to Do and Place to Go

Again, there is no place to write what sort of activities we want etc.(Q15 Q19 Q20). Open ended questions need more space.

But the most ridiculous thing is Q16 and Q17. If I were a shopkeeper/businessman in the area I would be talking to my solicitor right now! We are invited to say which shops we use and the only two choices we’ve got are Post Office and Mini Market.

What about the laundrette? Cafes? The local Charity shop? The local Chip Shop? I am hurt on their behalf for that omission..Has the person who compiled the questionnaire NEVER been in the area?

Questions 21 22 23 are out of this world. Obviously part of some “inspirational” “happiness agenda” but again.. please!! “More leisure activities?” NO. More leisure services, libraries, day centres for the elderly. Oh, wait a minute! We had those, and you closed them down!

Plus none of these things makes people happy. Their absence on the other hand definitely contributes to their unhappiness.

And the fun doesn’t stop here:

Q30 “How would you like to be involved in this?” Only has two options and they are both a hoot!

1. Community ideas day
2. A postal voting card

There is no other option, or space to actually answer the question using your own words (God forbid..)

But NO!! NONE OF THE ABOVE! What about getting together with your neighbours at a community forum? Talking to your councillors in their surgeries? Have access to more public space, more clear information and more open debate?

No more tokenist gimmicks!


Now the serious stuff. Tick your first 3 priorities, among environment, crime and community confidence, health and wellbeing (well, that makes sense since people in our area die younger and get more cancers apparently, based on data discussed at the last Inner East meeting), school attendance (this is the first time schools are actually mentioned in the questionnaire- it shows how much LCC values education, or how much they think WE value it), jobs/training or other.

How about dealing with the effects of a large transient population, due to unregulated flat conversions and equally unregulated emergency accommodation contracts?

How about filling the gaps form Council Services deserting the area ( library, day centre, old people’s home, hostel, sport’s centre, job shop?).

How about dealing with aggressive new developments blocking public rights of way, purchasing listed buildings and letting them rot, getting away with not paying s.106 money and creating gated communities within ours, further deepening the fragmentation and decay in places where there is very little left?

I will not comment on particular questions any further, it’s a futile task.

But I can’t help thinking of the irony of the whole “Health and Wellbeing” section, especially since the Council has agreed to build a huge incinerator next to our houses.

We don’t needd “activities” in our area! We need infrastructure. We need honest democratic debate. We need a decent living environment.

I would also like to know how much this questionnaire cost and who is responsible for it.

Because, this is a bad product.

And, I, as a council tax payer, would like my money back!


  1. Very well said. I cannot but agree with all your points they are very well made, I only hope that they will not be dismissed out of hand by the counci. They do not seem to regard the people of this area, at least, with anything but contempt. Time after time the residents of Richmond Hill, in particular, have their genuine concerns disregarded and dismissed out of hand.

    The people living here need to be more vocal, stand up for themselves and their community however this is really hard to do has you point out with a disproportionally large and fragmented population. Unlike other areas we do not have large blocks of public housing who can represent people en masse we have many, many absentee landlords of differing quality in our area and residents have become disillousioned with the whole process of community participation seeing it quite rightly as a tick box exercise for the council without any real point.

    Unfortunately the very residents who most need to stand up for themselves are the ones who seem least likely to do so. However articles like this drawing to wider attention the total inadequecies of council 'consultations' may just make people so angry that they finally stand up and say enough is enough - we need, want and deserve proper respect from our council. We matter and we should be listened to properly!

    Sue Lynch

  2. It really is diabolical. Nobody in their right mind would call this a survey. It is insulting in the extreme, mind you so is having a Community Leadership Tea, thats by invite only and not advertised.

    1. I don't know.. I quite like the idea of Community Leadership Tea. Will they provide biscuits? :))

  3. Why on earth would we (residents) speak out when nothing is listened too, nothing is done and action isn't taken. It's all well & good have endless surveys / council / community meetings but at the end of the day the council will always do what they want regardless of residential opinion. Hence why I won't waste my time filling in surveys that have no relevance or impact.

    1. Don't fill out the survey fill out your ballot papers!

      They don't listen because they know we won't vote them out, most don't vote at all so the votes of the party faithful swing the elections.

      If they know they will lose their jobs they will pay attention not because they care more but out of pure self-interest, they look out for number one and so should we

    2. I m torn ..I will try to fill in the questionnaire, just because I hope that my answers will be recorded. But it is a futile exercise..

  4. I can’t believe the council actually have the nerve to ask such ill informed questions. How about opening their eyes?

    Look at the state of the former York Road Library for example. Remember how hard we had to push the council just to get a plastic sheet of a roof fitted? (Which is now in tatters) If the council knew how to do their job right then they would have already known about the state of the building and should have started proceedings to have it re-roofed themselves. Even now the repairs still have not been completed to a satisfactory level as Phil Ward had originally stated they would be. I blame Leeds City Council for its neglect and then subsequently Jason Butler for letting the building decline to its current state of disrepair.

  5. The trouble is the levels of participation are so low and the forum meetings spread so sparsely people lose interest.

    A decent team would have monthly meetings, combined with other methods of comunication. Yet we have area managers who dont consult with people they dont like (or dont approve of their plans) councillors who dont reply to emails unless you are on their side and an over paid locality manager who is frankly a waste of space. These people are paid by us but are not accountable to us. Until that changes we will get fobbed off with pathetic attempts like this.

    It is time for our community to fight back. And by fighting back we will be alienated even more by those who represent us. But we have to try, or we are destined to fail. WE understand our community WE LIVE HERE.

    Jason C

    1. The forum is well attended though.. even if it now takes place every four months!!!
      And, although less than perfect, it is democratic, open to all and inclusive. Why do away with it? If it ain't broken...

  6. But the forum is wonderful - its bolshy and argues back.And Lizz Johnson storming out was so funny. I think that might mean cross green are pro incinerator and area mgt compliant too! (so thats why they get everything) And until the area management take the fact that we have memories and nice loud voices on board nothing is going to change. same agenda every meeting - its an accident waiting to happen. They should try and embrace someideas, put some exhibitions on, refreshements would be nice (council meetings get them)

  7. The trouble is they are trying to stop the Forums and have cosy little meetings with specially selected members of the community (those who play nice with the area management and councillors regardless of the effect on the residents they claim to represent) and then where will community involvement be? In this matter though I have to give credit to the Lib Dems who all 3 voted solidly with Sarah Covell when she was our community representative to put a stop to the very anti-democratic plan. Burmantofts & Richmond Hill Forum is the last one fully open to the public and it will not last past May because the present area management and the 2 out of 3 of our councillors at the very least will do it down.

    They only want community involvement in tick box excercises to meet spurious targets and no passionate involvment from the community is get so messy when residents really care and ask awkward questions and worst of all refuse to be fobbed off with platitudes.

    The answer would seem to be to hold our own forums, run on strictly democratic lines where the ignored and marinalised can come and raise matters of concern to them and let the council and the councillors ignore these gatherings at their peril.

  8. What a good idea.......

  9. It's a great idea to keep the forum going as a independent forum if (or more likely, when) they close it. After all it's meant to be the 'Richmond Hill Resident's Forum' not the Richmond Hill Councillor's Forum.

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