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'Council should go to the place it serves'
A council meeting aimed at taking politics into the community has come under fire after it was moved to the Town Hall.
This month’s North East Area Forum on Monday, May 21 will be held in Oxford Town Hall in St Aldate’s – nearly two miles away from the area of the city it serves.
It is the first time one of the city’s area forums will be held outside the area of Oxford it is targeted at.
The city’s six area forums are usually held within the communities they serve to allow residents to attend and discuss the decisions affecting their neighbourhoods.
But Oxford City Council said the meeting on May 21 would be focused on older people’s issues and holding it at the town hall would make it easier for them to attend.
However, Liberal Democrat Headington city councillor David Rundle said: “It is particularly inappropriate to demand that OAPs from Headington and beyond should have to cross the city for the privilege of sitting in front of the people who should be making the effort to go and see them in their communities. Is the council really claiming Town Hall is the best and the only location?
“The principle is simple: the council should be going to where residents are rather than expecting busy people to go to them.
“The council needs to remember it’s the servant, not the master.”
Mr Rundle said he would not attend the meeting and would spend the time doing council case work.
The North East Area Forum covers Headington, Marston, Barton, Risinghurst and Headington Quarry. Previously the meetings have been held in New Marston Primary School in Copse Lane, Headington Baptist Church in Old High Street and Oxford Brookes University in Gipsy Lane.
Marston pensioner Bill Jupp admitted Town Hall was far away but said the move could have its advantages.
He said: “It is a long way to go into town from here but you only have to get one bus.”
Last month area forums, which were created a year ago to replace area committees, were criticised by a panel of councillors who said they were not working.
The panel, set up by the communities and partnerships scrutiny committee, found area forums did not attract enough people and did not have enough clout.
And in the year following the scrapping of area committees some areas such as Littlemore have only had one meeting.
Deputy council leader Ed Turner said the committees were scrapped to protect jobs and front-line services, adding that the council was in a “learning process”.
City Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “This particular area forum will be focused on issues affecting older people.
“The councillors felt it would be easier for older people in their community to get buses into the city centre as there are no cross bus routes across the North East Area Forum area.
“The venue will also suit a larger group for a day time meeting as we normally use schools and church halls for these meetings which are normally booked during the day.
“We hope that older people within the North East area attend the meeting and discuss topics that affect them and we can then look at how to improve things for them in their community.”