Last week, the HS2 Residents’ Commissioner, Deborah Fazan, published her first quarterly report since starting her new role in January. It’s clear this is a box-ticking role designed to make HS2 Ltd look good, rather than to do any good for people affected by HS2.
While one might assume that the most important part of the job was to actually speak to residents affected by HS2, this is not part of the job description.
Instead, working from the Canary Wharf offices of HS2 Ltd and reporting directly to David Higgins, chair of HS2 Ltd, the Residents’ Commissioner seems to be mainly communicating with HS2 Ltd to find out what they think about what they are saying.
Although the report claims she will “also focus on how well communications from HS2 Ltd are received and understood more generally”, it is difficult to see how she can do this, with the barriers set up by HS2 Ltd. The Residents Charter claims that the contact details will be on the HS2 website, but when trying to contact her, people have been rebuffed by HS2 Ltd staff.
Fazan recommendations include
- to reestablish community engagement. Community Forums were dropped by HS2 Ltd in 2013, claiming the need for them to concentrate on ‘petition management’ for individuals rather than the community as a whole.
- to look out for existing community groups and engage with them
- to find out about local demographics, so that HS2 Ltd can identify who individuals would prefer to communicate with them
- to produce regionally focused newsletters
Fazan’s plans for the next few months are to spend longer looking at HS2’s property schemes in more detail, to monitor HS2 Ltd’s response to her report and to meet some MPs. She also hopes to be able to find some other organisation to actually meet individuals and communities.
The report says that Higgins will make his response available ‘shortly’.
Regardless of what HS2 Ltd and Higgins says about her report, one thing is clear:
Deborah Fazan cannot give HS2 Ltd any meaningful advice about how well their communications are working if she never speaks to the people HS2 Ltd are communicating with. Right now she’s looking like another consultant on the HS2 gravy train.