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Don't ignore public, HS2 chiefs are told

Staffordshire | News | Published:

There are fundamental problems with the way that HS2 bosses communicate with residents affected by the planned railway, according to a damning report by MPs.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said there was a 'defensive culture' and bosses needed to remember they 'serve the public'.

In 2015 a Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman identified a series of failings in communication and engagement with the tiny hamlet of Flats Grave Lane and Knox Lane near Lichfield which amounted to 'maladministration'.

Following up that report, MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee investigated.

Its chairman, Bernard Jenkin, said: "There is still a culture of defensive communication and misinformation within this public body and that is not acceptable.

"Unless those responsible for delivering HS2 understand that first and foremost they serve the public, they will continue to be criticised for having complete disregard for the people, some of them vulnerable, who are impacted by this large-scale infrastructure project.

"We expect HS2 Ltd to prioritise its response to forthcoming recommendations on communication and engagement and on complaint handling. This is a matter of primary importance for HS2 Ltd and must be treated as such."

The committee's report said that what should have been consultation events were in fact turned into public relations exercises, and the information that was made available to the public was either too generic to be of use or was inconsistent.

It added that the process was treated as a one way 'box-ticking' exercise by HS2 Ltd, with no genuine two-way engagement.

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In future, members of the public dealing with HS2 Ltd should never have to go through the same experiences as those affected by phase one, it concluded.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin responded: "Yet again, HS2 Ltd have been found wanting, but MPs have no problem voting for this vanity project. The whole case for HS2 has been based on misinformation."

HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby, said: "We recognise that more needs to be done to improve the way we communicate, and listen to, people affected by the project, and we are pleased the committee recognises the progress that has been made since the publication of the report."

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