We are a little concerned that the multiplication of the use of bodies incorporating "Forum" in their title may be causing confusion and can only hope that the explanation below on the present state of play with Forums (or Fora, as latinists may prefer) will not serve to muddy the waters further.
Many of you will be familiar with the old Area Forums: the three face-to-face meetings that Westminster Council previously arranged for our area each year with local councillors and Westminster officers; and many have asked what has happened to them. They have now gone, but they are to be replaced by a new body called "Open Forum".
The Open Forum will still offer three public meetings a year, but they will now be hosted by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Philippa Roe and will be concerned with issues not just in our area but across the whole of Westminster. The first meeting will be on Tuesday 23 February 2016, at Porchester Hall, Porchester Road, London W2 5HS, from 7pm.
The new Open Forum is claimed to be an improvement on the old Area Forum concept. However, we remain to be convinced; residents of Marylebone will now be expected to attend a venue outside Marylebone to listen to issues generated across Westminster, many of which will not be specific or even relevant to our area. One assumes that it will also struggle to provide the same ready access to our local ward councillors as previously.
It is also surprising that Westminster Council did not take this opportunity to use another description other than "Forum" for these meetings as this will continue to lead to ready and frequent confusion with the new Neighbourhood Forums, which are entirely different. The good news is that the Marylebone Forum, as a Neighbourhood Forum, will be giving local residents and councillors the opportunity to meet face to face and discuss specifically local issues and to this extent may well help fulfil a need that is no longer to be as well addressed by the new Open Forums. The next Marylebone Forum meeting is on the 28th January, in Marylebone; further details can be found at www.maryleboneforum.org.