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WTC – the blind shutting out the light?

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WTC – the blind shutting out the light?

An ‘In My View’ article by Nigel Ward

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

It is some time since I reported on the extraordinary antics of Whitby Town (Parish) Council.

However, my attention has been drawn to a recent instance of what a former Councillor described to the Whitby Gazette as Whitby Town Council’s extraordinary affection for secrecy”.

Many readers will no doubt be aware of the ‘Council News’ article on page 12 of the Friday 25th January 2013 issue of the Whitby Gazette. For those who are not, I reproduce a scan of the article here:

The passages with which we are concerned read, respectively:

The full town council is made up of 19 councillors.

It meets on the first Tuesday of every month at Pannett Art Gallery in Pannet Park, starting at 6:45pm.

Members of the public are very welcome and you may be able to speak for three minutes each at the start of the meeting.

Just before these meetings there is a councillors’ surgery at 6:30pm, when members of the public can chat informally to their councillor about any matters of concern affecting Whitby.

and;

Future of Whitby Town Council meetings in Pannett Art Gallery

Tuesday 5th February – Full Council 6:45pm

Council_News_meeting_dates

It should be remembered that the Whitby Gazette goes to press on a Thursday.

It so happens that on Wednesday 23rd January 2013, the Town Clerk Mrs Pam DOBSON published an Agenda summoning the Councillors to attend an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council for Tuesday 29th January 2013 at 6:30pm. (Readers may remember reading about Judge David SIMPSON’s ruling on Pam DOBSON, regarding her competence and integrity, on Real Whitby, back in December 2010).

Clearly, the Agenda for the Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council was published before the Whitby Gazette press deadline. The Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council could have appeared at the top of the list of Future Meetings, thus informing the public of the departure from the previously publicised schedule.

It does not do so; nor does the information that the Councillors’ Surgery would therefore either have to be abandoned, or moved to an earlier time.

It is also worth examining the Council Calendar, as it appears on the Council website, where no meeting of any kind was scheduled for Tuesday 29th January 2013:

WTC_web_calendar

 

Now, the Agenda for that Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council happens to deal with a very important matter:

  • To approve the 2013/2014 Budget and Precept in accordance with Minute 736/13 FGP (Financial & General Purpose Committee) Meeting 10th January 2013.

This is no trivial affair. It directly affects Council Tax and Council Services. Members of the public (whether or not they pay Council Tax) may well have a view on the recommendations of the Finance & General Purpose Committee.

They may wish to “chat informally with their Councillor” in the Councillors’ Surgery, clearly reported as being scheduled for 6:30pm – preceding Full Council meetings, which are reported as being scheduled for 6:45pm.

They may also wish to raise their concerns during the three minutes in which they have an entitlement to address the Full Council in the scheduled Public Participation section.

Unfortunately, that is not how it panned out.

Members of the public arrived at the Pannett Art Gallery at 6:30pm, hoping for both an “informal chat” with Councillors during the 6:30pm Councillors’ Surgery (as announced in last Friday’s Gazette), and intending to address the Full Council for the designated three minutes during the Public Participation segment – third item on the Agenda – which would normally take place perhaps five or ten minutes after the start of the meeting, traditionally scheduled for 6:45pm.

What actually transpired was that the Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council opened somewhat earlier than the 6:30pm start time stated in the Agenda, and in fact, closed at 6:32pm, with all business concluded – including the ratification of the Budget/Precept – without members of the public having any opportunity at all to ask questions or offer any input.

Such is the democratic process provided by Whitby Town (Parish) Council.

The reader may consider this trivial enough.

However, some Councillors do not find it trivial in the least, because the ratification of the Precept/Budget has now ensured that, in real terms, Town (Parish) Council services for the community (pitiful though they are) will be reduced in 2013/14 by a very significant degree – though the remuneration of Council staffing is to be increased to over 60% of the entire annual budget. That is austerity, Whitby-style. It is alright for some – even for one who is known for evasiveness and gross misconduct!

But let us allow that opinion to be publicly expressed in the form of a statement included in the draft Minute 736/13 FGP (Financial & General Purpose Committee) Meeting 10th January 2013:

STATEMENT

In 2011/12 this council raised a precept of £229,000 from the residents of Whitby and budgeted to spend £139,100 on staffing. In 2012/13 this council raised a precept of £229,000 from the residents of Whitby and budgeted to spend £150,525 on staffing an increase of £11,425 or 7.6%. This coming year this council proposes to raise a precept of £229,000 from the residents of Whitby and is budgeting to spend £156,625 on staffing on increase of £6,100 or 4% this increase is to fund an office junior apprenticeship. A staffing cost increase in 2 years of £17,525 or 11.6%. In 2013/14 our projected staffing bill represents 60.9% of the councils total projected income, our projected spend on the provision of services is a mere £13,850 or 5.3% of our projected income. This situation is in our opinion intolerable and we cannot vote for a budget which increases staffing costs, nor can we vote for a budget where the percentage spends on provision of services to the residents is so pitifully meagre.

Cllr Amanda Smith

Cllr Steve Smith

So, with no member of the public allowed an opportunity to comment, two (out of only four – in my view – Councillors with the necessary financial acumen to analyse the Council’s budgetary responsibilities) have, as usual, been over-ruled by a majority – many of whom have no electoral mandate – who would, quite literally, struggle to organise an intoxication event in a brewery.

Readers who doubt my opinion could do worse than approach Councillor Dennis COLLINS or Councillor Terry JENNISON for a lucid explanation; they could consult The Bollard That Never Rises, with much the same result.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Posted by on January 31, 2013. Filed under News,Nigel Ward - In My View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

9 Responses to WTC – the blind shutting out the light?


  1. Colin Doran Reply

    January 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    If it closed at 6:32 pm, no wonder I missed it.

  2. Jane Swales Reply

    January 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    How on earth did they ever come to employ someone with that kind of record? In any other walk of life a judgement like that would make her unemployable!

  3. DKP Reply

    February 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    The diluted version for mass consumption:

    http://www.whitbygazette.co.uk/news/local/precept-frozen-at-heated-meeting-1-5371495

    “Afterwards, Mayor John Freeman paid tribute to town clerk Pam Dobson and the finance committee for for their hard work in making sure the precept stayed the same.”

    With only 6% of the £227,500 Precept returning to the public in services what is the man bragging about?

    What shameless bovine excrement!

  4. kathleen parker Reply

    February 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Why the extraordinary meeting? I thought extraordinary meetings were for something that’s cropped up that needs dealing with now and not later?! Whose really wanted the meeting changed and why? Stinks to me,what services is 13,850 for? Anyone know?

    • Nigel Ward Reply

      February 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      In round numbers, Kathleen:

      Services:

      £2,500 – Allotments

      £3,500 – Modern Apprentice (for Pannett Park) though perhaps this should be under staffing as well?

      £2,750 – Grants (includes any grant for Whitby in Bloom)

      £2,000 – Christmas Lights

      £750 – Notice board

      £2,000 – Proposed Church Street Toilets (NB. Filey TC has got match funding for their new toilets from SBC, same offer was made to Whitby TC but they didn’t take it up!)

      A few years ago, then-Councillor Pete BUDD provided, at his own expense, not one but TWO notice-boards, custom-built by a local craftsman. (Quite why he Council allots £750 in its 2013/14 Budget for a Notice board remains unclear).

      Pete BUDD’s gifts to the town were never deployed and the Council is unable to identify their present location; they have been ‘lost’, or possibly sold on eBay (just as was a Richard ‘Mouseman Thompson solid oak church pew, by “sbcprocurement” – for £25. Estimated value £1,000 – £2,500. Who picked up that nice little bargain? Who picked up the proceeds?)

  5. kathleen parker Reply

    February 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Mmm could that be someone from near Scarborough that picked up that nice little piece? I think we are bloody well duped and no-one from the council dare stand up to the truth!

  6. Richard Ineson Reply

    February 1, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I actually attended the meeting, I arrived at 6.30 pm and had just taken off my coat when the meeting was closed. Several Councillors seemed to find this amusing, but the Mayor did apologise for my wasted journey and I took the opportunity to have a chat about various matters with the Mayor, Cllr. Jennison, Cllr. Collins, and Mrs. Dobson, one of which was the imminent move of SBC staff from their Skinner Street offices – the move to these offices in I think, 2002,cost us £502,000, at the time. Cllr. Rob Broadley said that it would make more sense to move into the Tourist Information Centre but some Councillors seemed to prefer the Skinner Street option. Within five or six years, the Skinner Street ‘state of the art offices’ were labelled as being ‘unfit for purpose’ which seemed very strange to me, at the time. I did write to ‘Silent Jim’ Dillon, in 2008, asking for an explanation etc. this letter remains unanswered. perhaps it is time to submit it to him once again, for his comments? Incidentally, the staff of SBC (Skinner Street division) are now destined to move into the Tourist Information Centre! Pity that Cllr. Broadley’s advice, to move into the TIC was not followed in 2002, I wonder why that was, has anybody got any inside information on that strange decision? Trebles all round

  7. pete budd Reply

    February 1, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    What will they say to a Gift of the Queen? I’ll ask again at the next meeting. I believe I’ve asked this one question six times. No wonder I was inclined to shout, and was still not heard.

  8. wendy Reply

    February 3, 2013 at 11:55 am

    It’s not just a Whitby thing we have it at Eastfield as well.

    SBC have coughed up the money for a 5% cut in our parish council precept on top of the 2% already announced. Sounds good until you remember that last year our contribution increased from £32,120 to £68,168.

    “I strongly believe that we should be doing all we can to ease the burden of Council Tax in Eastfield.” Parish Chairman Brian Simpson is the Author of the quote.


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