Croydon Council have released the results of their consultation on a wide area 20 mph scheme for North Croydon. As readers may know we distributed a leaflet in the area and otherwise made representations on what we considered a very biased consultation. The council reported that 50.4% of residents were in favour with 45.0% opposed (non-residents were ignored of course despite the fact that many will be using these roads).
But looking at the results more closely it is very apparent that there has been an attempt to rig the result. The main method of response to the consultation was via the councils web site as with most public consultations nowadays, but for the few people not on the internet they could phone in to get a paper form. The council did not distribute a paper response form themselves.
The results of the consultation split between on-line submissions and paper show a very different story. They give 42.5% FOR versus 53.1% AGAINST on the on-line submissions (total 2824 submissions) but 90.7% FOR versus 4.0% AGAINST in the paper submissions (total 535). Now anyone who has been involved in public consultations knows that it is very rare, if not impossible, to get a response of more than 90% in favour of anything. And clearly the paper responses swung the overall vote. Why should the results be so different on paper responses to on-line?
How was this achieved on the paper responses? Allegedly by some councillors and their supporters actually taking masses of paper forms and getting personal signatures on them by canvassing. One way to rig the result is simply to discourage those opposed from signing, or to discard those completed by those not in favour. Or of course it could be by simple submission of fraudulent entries which is a lot easier to do on paper than on-line.
Councillor Bee said “I am delighted that a majority of residents in the north of the Borough want to see reduced speed limits on their roads to make them safer” – surely an inaccurate statement in more than one way (most of the residents did not respond to begin with).
We are writing to the Council Leader and Chief Executive to challenge the probity of this consultation and the apparent rigging of the result. There will be a further formal public consultation on this matter and we will be making representations to that also. Clearly if the Council does not reconsider this matter then when it comes to any future consultations of a similar nature in Croydon, we will know exactly how to get the right result.