The Government’s site selection plans place considerable authority in the hands of the public, and will need to be underpinned by significant sums of public money to cover the community’s costs.
No matter how worthy the Government’s plans, or the goodness of their intent, the plans are unique, complex and will need much testing and discussion on how they are to be implemented. GDFWatch will be working with communities to understand the rules, to make them as effective and as responsive as possible to each community’s needs.
Despite the Government and RWM’s good intentions, how they implement the rules and decide how much funding to release in support of the community, will still be subject to National Audit Office (NAO) review, to ensure efficient use of taxpayer’s money. There will inevitably be a natural tension here between good intentions, willingness to fund, and governance of public funds — which historically rarely favours communities!
Hence the need for communities to understand their rights, and what costs and resources they are entitled to, and for GDFWatch to support them in that process.
This is not a dissimilar situation to the early days of the National Lottery. Bodies were established to distribute funds to good causes, and processes developed to assess applications. However, in those early days there was a high degree of uncertainty on both sides about how those processes would actually work in practice. It required significant dialogue between the distributing bodies and communities to develop practical processes that everyone understood, accepted as fair and reasonable, and that met the needs of the good causes for whom the funds were intended, while ensuring good governance of public funds.
It will be very similar when we come to the practical interpretation and implementation of the community engagement rules for the GDF siting process. Seemingly byzantine rules and procedures, concocted in good faith but from within a conceptual cocoon, will quickly run up against daily community realities. Even if some rules are fairly clear, there will be unforeseen nuances that need resolving. And not one size will fit all — each community will have its own very specific requirements.