WHITEHALL made no attempt to check the identities of people who gave their opinions on the far-reaching plans for local Government reform in Somerset, says MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
The Government ignored calls for a referendum and instead asked for people’s views via a ‘Citizen Space’ consultation run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The stated aim of the consultation was to hear arguments for and against the two proposals – the unitary One Somerset option or the two-tier Stronger Somerset option, preferred by all the district councils in the county.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, sent a ‘Written Parliamentary Question’ to the Ministry, asking what steps Citizen Space was taking to verify the (a) identity and (b) nationality of respondents.
Minister Luke Hall MP replied: “The Government welcomed the views of all those interested in the proposals, including local residents, town and parish councils, businesses and the voluntary sector; the process is not a poll or referendum, and hence there were no limitations on who was able to respond, nor is there a process of validating the details of respondents.
“Those responding to the consultation on Citizen Space, the Department’s online platform which is used widely across the public sector for consultation activities,
were required to declare whether they were responding as a resident (and if so whether they are resident in the area concerned or elsewhere including overseas) or whether they were responding on behalf of an organisation and in which case the type of organisation.
“They were also asked to provide the name of the organisation on whose behalf a response is being made and the email address of the respondent. No further details
about a respondent’s personal or family’s interests were requested.”
Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “This is absolute proof that the Government consultation didn’t check any identities so the whole exercise was a meaningless sham.
“Somerset people deserve to have their say. That’s why the forthcoming referendum organised by our four district councils will now be so important.”