Alternative views should be aired

PUBLISHED: 11:05 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 12:27 10 June 2010

Having just stood down from the council's Community Organisations Liaison Panel (COLP), I was somewhat aggrieved to read the letter in last week's Journal written by the Conservative Group at Exmouth Town Council, which eulogised about the harmonious atmosphere at the Town Hall.

Having just stood down from the council's Community Organisations Liaison Panel (COLP) I was somewhat aggrieved to read the letter in last week's Journal written by the Conservative Group at Exmouth Town Council, which eulogised about the harmonious atmosphere at the Town Hall.

When, last summer, the Exmouth Residents' Association (ERA) first joined COLP, it was with some trepidation.

One of our fears was that our independence would be eroded and that our membership of COLP would be used publicly to imply that we were at one with the council on all matters.

In recent weeks, this fear has been realised and my own departure followed Town Hall criticism of ERA for submitting a letter to your paper (November 12) explaining ERA's stance with regard to the Rolle issue.

Returning to last week's Conservative Group letter, there are a number of things about it that bother me.

It is what is popularly known as spin and, as such, sticks somewhat in the throat.

Of the extraordinary council meeting (November 9) it states that '. . . no-one was left unheard' and yet the author knows that I was disappointed to have been overlooked at that meeting.

I mentioned this in the ERA letter to the Journal (November 12) and the point was roundly dismissed in the criticism that we subsequently received from Town Hall.

My second complaint about the letter is that there is an underlying threat to deter would-be critics from airing their views.

We are told that the bid to buy Rolle '. . . will only be successful if all of Exmouth sticks together.' In other words if you speak out, it will be your fault if the bid fails! Quite a responsibility and yet is this continual demand for unity important to the bid?

Frankly, it is absurd and suppression of criticism is certainly not the way to '. . . ensure the best level of decision making for the challenges that face our town' as suggested in the Conservative Group's letter.

Protective attitudes provide a fertile environment for vested interests, nymbyism, and other types of manipulative behaviour.

On the subject of the Rolle, it is obvious that improved sixth form and further education would benefit our town. However, we are dealing with a council (Devon County Council) that has responsibility for the whole of Devon and one that is convinced that it needs to make drastic cuts in both capital and revenue expenditure, wherever possible.

No amount of 'solidarity' will work here. What is, and was, required is an incontrovertible cost justification which explains that there is a need and proves that 'Rolle' is the best way to satisfy it.

The benefits of improved sixth form provision and further education may be a 'no brainer', but that does not mean that you need mindless obedience to the party line! Wiser to seek to understand alternative views and determine whether they reveal any flaws in your own plans.

Geoff Morris,

9 Trinfield Avenue,

Exmouth.

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