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Meanwhile down at the Partnership
Several years ago a Public Meeting was held to explain how a Town Partnership would be able to access hundreds of thousands of poundsworth of government money to help with job creation (following the Parker Knoll closure) and promotion of the town. A partnership was formed but nothing happened for two years while meetings were held in secret and then we were told it would be necessary to have a "professional" Programme Manager to apply for grants. Last summer the Partnership took its begging bowl round and collected �7,000 from WODC, �3,000 from the Town Council, �2,000 from the Chipping Norton Society, �5,000 from the County Council and a promise of �10,000 from the Guild of Commerce to pay for a �200 a day Programme Manager who began work last September and whose job was to apply for grants. As far as we know the only grant the Partnership have applied for or received so far is several hundred pounds from the West Oxfordshire Safety Partnership to pay for the hamburgers served at Hilary's Freshers Fair. Whatever happened to plans for an Enterprise Centre We've just heard yet again (it must be the tenth time in six months) that there has been another snag up at the Wimpey site in the sale of the 5 acres of employment land to a new buyer so no application to SEEDA for funds using new industrial units there can yet be submitted. Frittering away public money like this and doing nothing seems criminal - but do you know what The Partnership apparently answers to nobody! So if you meet any of the Partnership around town be sure to ask them what the hell is going on..... The Mayor, Rob Evans, Hilary Biles, Mike Howes, and the Headmaster are just a few of the illustrious quango members. For a full list, check their website. Ask them whether they realise its their job to lean on the planners at WODC to get those industrial units up at Parker Knoll built and to apply for the SEEDA funds to adapt some of them as an Enterprise Centre. Or are they hoping we will simply forget Perhaps its time to send the Programme Manager back to Carterton and ask for our money back!
From the Partnership Website
Click on Chipping Norton/Town Partnership/Marketing Chipping Norton
Urgent Items.........It has been discovered that the one dedicated Chipping Norton brochure (albeit with mistakes) is about to run out and WODC does not have the resources to reprint it.
Next Steps...........It is suggested that the Programme Manager , as a priority, seeks sponsorship to reprint a revised version of the Chipping Norton Brochure ......
THE EDITOR SAYS.......Hang on a sec. West Oxfordshire District Council is responsible for promoting tourism. Its one of the things we pay our rates for. So far they have closed the Visitor Information Centre and withdrawn the accommodation booking service. The last time I looked they had not got any "approved" accommodation in Chippy at all on their list (except for Heythrop Park). They refused to make any contribution to producing a Guide Book and now they say they can't even afford to produce a leaflet about the town. Total cost �1,000 at the most. Yet they could easily find �7,000 towards the cost of a Programme Manager who now spends her time trying to find sponsorship for a leaflet that WODC should have paid for in the first place. What a crazy system!
At the Partnership Meeting Brian Galbraith and Keith Ruddle made really strong complaints about WODC's performance on the Tourism front. Councillor Tony Walker got a bit rattled and promised to "have a look to see what could be done about helping to print the leaflet" Here's hoping!
Tracey Hiland a regular contributor to the chippingnorton.net Forum went along on March 21st to find out all about the Partnership
The meeting last night was all very predictable. After going to the first public meeting a few months ago where we learnt nothing. again after last nights meeting we still know nothing. Everyone first introduced themselves including a stranger from the Theatre, (how do we do it, get strangers to make decisions for us) Simon waffled on while showing a presentation on a projector about something, no facts or figures that could be checked nothing that could be substantiated. You would think if there was something to crow about we would have been told, but no, much the same as before secret talks between developers etc. How long has this been going on If you have ever been visited by a double glazing salesman , gone through the routine sales presentation and yet not seen the windows, then this was it. Catherine Chater was up next telling us how wonderful her office was above the Guildhall and saying what a wonderful view it was looking down on us all. Progress report and future plans Well there wasn�t much progress and as for future plans, well it was all about youth and contact with youth and saying their meeting with the youth - well 10 of them - at a meeting went well, and now more talks. The meeting was saved by Simon Duffy introducing Martyn Young from Owen Mumford, Martyn gave us all a good presentation about the company, staff, turnover and history followed by a few questions. This is where it all fell apart. It turns out that the partnership had NO input into the expansion of the company. Obvious really otherwise the partnership would be crowing about it. It just goes to show companies can do it without interference from self appointed groups. Another question was about the eyesore of the new building to the town. Martyn explained they had complied and met the requirement of planting new trees, Val Newey jumped to their defence saying Owen Mumford had given �100 towards flowers for the town though no one was being critical of the company. As I posted previously Jim, the new factory can�t be seen from Witney. Then question time for the partnership. What about more leaflets for the town Catherine told us WODC would not pay for more (so much for her money raising skills) - so it was left to Tony Walker (WODC) to explain. He mumbled something in embarrassment but no real answer. Another question from Cllr Alcock to the partnership why haven�t they drawn up a plan to use the �400,000 earmarked for Chipping Norton by OCC after the sell off Parker Knoll. Richard Dudding from OCC tried to answer but certainly did not give a positive answer. Time marched on and they were saved by the bell (the Town Hall chimes to be precise) So that was it - no real answers. You might have expected a progress report on paper, something to study when drinking your cocoa, but if there is no progress then there can be no report can there Anyway before Gina could present Rob with another medal the meeting was over. Conclusion. The partnership steering committee consists of County Councillors, District Councillors and Town Councillors and yet after 3 years only one job has been created. The achievements in the last three years have been nothing short of pathetic.
Following the Forum, Councillor Greenwell has written to the Partnership Programme Manager as follows:
The Partnership is funded with public money and I would have expected the accounts for the periods up to the annual meeting to have been published and available at that meeting. When are we going to see how the money has been spent, when will the accounts be published and where will they be displayed Who is the auditor and how were they appointed
Cllr Keith R Greenwell
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 9:43 AM
RE: Partnership Accounts
I am forwarding your questions about the accounts to Will Barton to respond, as West Oxfordshire District Council currently acts as the �Accountable Body� for the Partnership.
Regards Catherine Chater Programme Manager
Chipping Norton Town Partnership
Won't the WODC Cabinet ever learn
|Readers will remember that the District Council have to find a representative to serve on the Chipping Norton Town Partnership. They appointed Chunky Townley while he was on holiday. Chunky wasn't best pleased when he got back and told them they could keep the job so last week the Cabinet resumed the search. Everyone knows the whole thing is a waste of money but since it is the District Council wasting most of the money they have to be represented. In the past it has always been the Cabinet member responsible for Economic Development who took on the chore - first it was Mary Neale and then Tony Walker. The new Economic Supremo is Verena Hunt and she made it crystal clear at the Cabinet meeting that she didn't want the job. From her experience in Carterton she knew for a certainty that it had to be a local person. They looked round for someone from Chipping Norton. Mike Howes very quickly made a speech which began..."Everyone knows what I think of Partnerships...." He seemed to be suggesting that Partnerships were just talk shops. Whatever it was he was suggesting it was absolutely clear he wasn't volunteering. So the only remaining District Councillor from Chippy was Eve Coles (Labour) - and the Tory Cabinet in its one-sided wisdom had never ever proposed Eve Coles for anything. Indeed only last month they had ousted her from the Environment Committee - the environment being one of Eve's huge passions and a real area of expertise. So it was to everyone's astonishment when Simon Hoare proposed Eve for the Partnership job - quickly seconded by Verena. Unfortunately Eve wasn't there. She was having a well-earned break. (Along with about forty other District Councillors who were not at the meting) Barry Norton in the chair was very grumpy..."I am surprised she isn't here" he huffed. How on earth was Eve supposed to know that the Cabinet would be cooking up this silly nomination. Nobody had checked with her whether she was happy to be nominated. And anybody who had listened to a word Eve has said in the last few years would have known she was opposed to the Partnership. So notwithstanding the fiasco with Chunky, the Cabinet ploughed on regardless and appointed Eve to the job. The official minute says....
"Chipping Norton Town Partnership
Mr Hoare suggested it was important that a local member served on the partnership and proposed that Mrs Coles should be appointed if she was happy to be nominated. This was seconded by Miss Hunt and on being put to the vote was carried".
There is news for the Cabinet. chippingnorton.net can exclusively reveal that Eve will not be accepting the nomination. "How could I be such a hypocrite" was her response to the invitation. So the Cabinet are now back to Square One. Perhaps they needn't bother. Apparently the Partnership are coming to the next Town Council meeting asking for some more money to carry on funding their boring website and their absurdly expensive Programme Manger whose legendary fundraising abilities don't seem to have achieved anything so far - after a year of trying. In order to find �3,000 for the Partnership last year a majority of the Town Council voted to cut all maintenance expenditure on the town's playgrounds. This was a disgraceful decision and will not happen again. Its time to stop wasting money on this hopeless quango.
HOW COME THE MAYOR
GETS TWO VOTES
Over three years ago at a famous meeting in the Town Hall we were told that if we signed up for a Town Partnership we would have half a million pounds in grants in the bank within six months. The meeting fell for the story. Ever been had Here we are now nearly four years on.....we've spent thousands employing an expert fund raiser who has not raised any funds but has launched a lousy Town Partnership website which nobody visits (embarrassing was how one councillor described it). Now we are being told that everything is suddenly about to come good. Ignore the last four years. Rob Evans recounted a tear-jerking tale of how those lost years have been as demoralising for the members of the Partnership as everybody else. (But since the Partnership met in secret all that time how were we to know that) Now its all different - cough up �3,000 and by the 1st quarter of next year we will have secured a quarter of a million in grants to open an Enterprise Centre at Cromwell Park. They surely couldn't get away with this blackmail a second time. Why should we believe we will get anything more in the next six months than we have got over the last three and a half years There was a totally misleading discussion in which the partnership representatives kept repeating the line that if the Town didn't cough up, the District wouldn't pay up, then the County wouldn't pay up and then SEEDA wouldn't either. (A totally speculative argument since nobody had said anything about what they would do if the Town Council never made a contribution!) But what a fantastic bargain....for only �3K the town was going to get back �250,000 in grants within six months. No guarantees mind you! Don't the Town Councillors listen to all that advice which is churned out by the government warning the unsuspecting public about scams..."If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is". (They had received an excellent detailed analysis of the situation and some clear enough warnings at the beginning of the meeting when Graham Birks addressed the Council as a concerned member of the public urging the council to hold on to its money for more useful things). Rob Evans said that quite apart from the money and specific projects the Partnership was a fantastic and important forum which meant that senior representatives of the County and the District come to Chipping Norton and get involved with our problems. The very future of our town was on the line. What he didn't say was the County Council representative seems to have stopped coming to meetings and the WODC Cabinet recently appointed first Chunky Townley and then Eve Coles as their representative only to have the job thrown back in their faces. They are still looking for a replacement. Chunky and Eve know a talkshop when they see one. A few people tried to point out that �3,000 might not seem much to the big time operators in Witney but in Chipping Norton it was probably the difference between recreation playground swings that worked or didn't. And more than that there was no money in the budget for this. Take it out of reserves said Rob. Just add recreation costs on to the precept and get the taxpayers to stump up said another Councillor cheered on by his fellow Partnership supporters. Another said that compared with the �2,000 just agreed for painting the railings round the Town Hall the Partnership was a snip at only �3,000. The Deputy Mayor got very grumpy and said there was no point carrying on the discussion any more - everyone had made up their minds. Good to know Democracy is alive and well in Chipping Norton. And so on to the vote. There was general astonishment all round when our non-political Mayor chose to cast a vote on the subject. Some people wondered whether this was altogether wise - given that she had been a prominent Founding member of the Partnership and had been on the Steering Committee for three years up to only very recently. Most people would reckon that she had at the very least a Personal Interest in the matter. Hilary's stooges followed party instructions and with their mistresses hand firmly pulling the strings they all voted to hand over the money. (Sarah Wilkes announced as she arrived that she had been told she had to attend - despite not being very well). The Deputy Mayor climbed on the bandwagon and was joined by Chippy's very own padrino - Councillor Grantham. Six votes - not exactly the ringing endorsement which Councillor Evans had called for - certainly not the convincing show of support which would demonstrate to SEEDA and the County Council the unanimous strength of local backing for a Town Partnership. As it happens it was not even a majority. Councillors Withers, Watkins, Alcock, Greenwell, Coles and Dixon voted against. The vote was a draw. Whatever the rules say - in most organisations I know, stalemate on a controversial expenditure item is immediately followed by an attempt to find some amendment to the resolution which could command a majority. Like reducing the amount of money or attaching some conditions or demanding more representation on the committee of the receiving body. This would be carefully explored before any casting vote mechanism was invoked. After all democratic bodies are supposed to be about finding a genuine consensus.This is what the Parish Council Toolkit says on the matter:
Whilst it is a convention in some Councils that the Chairman will not vote when a matter is
put before the meeting and will only use his or her casting vote, there is no rule of law on this
and is becoming a practice little followed. Some Councils apply a convention, however, that
the Chairman will use his or her second or casting vote in a way to support the status quo
and keep the question open for reconsideration at a later date, which is generally considered
to be best practice.
But not in the Chipping Norton Council. "I have a casting vote. The resolution is passed" said the Mayor breathlessly. Thus ensuring that this saga will run and run because of course nothing was really passed.....and its not at all clear that the Mayor should have been voting at all - let alone twice!! And if Sarah had stayed in bed where she belonged on Monday evening the outcome would have been 100% different. Losing a vote is one thing but I shall be really really angry if I catch Sarah's cold!
Voting to hand your money over to the Partnership were: l to r Top Row: Martin Jarrett Deputy Mayor (Independent) Chris Butterworth (Conservative) Sarah Wilkes (Conservative) l to r Bottom Row: Hilary Williams (Conservative) Gina Burrows Mayor (Labour) John Grantham (Labour)
THIRD TIME LUCKY
From the WODC Cabinet minutes: District Councillor Michael Howes has agreed to become West Oxfordshire District Council's representative on the Chipping Norton Town Partnership. Cllr Howes was already on the body as a representative of the Rotary Club but he has now relinquished that appointment to represent the council. The Rotary Club will now be invited to nominate another representative.
The Cabinet received and considered the report of the Chief Executive regarding the appointment of a representative to the Chipping Norton Town Partnership. Miss Hunt advised that, in the absence of any other nominations, Mr Howes had indicated that he would be prepared to relinquish his appointment to the Partnership by the Rotary Club and accept the Council�s nomination, enabling the club to put forward an alternative representative. Mr Hoare thanked Mr Howes for his assistance in this respect and both he and Mrs Biles expressed their disappointment at the fact that Mrs Coles had felt unable to accept the Council�s nomination.
The Editor comments: Talk about a poisoned chalice. This job has already been turned down by the other two District Councillors Chunky Townley and Eve Coles. Mike is up for re-election in six months time in a contest he is unlikely to win so its not exactly a long-term appointment. Mike did not represent the Rotary Club. He represented Town Charities. If I was in the Lions, the British Legion or the Masons or whatever - I would wonder about just how this is all being fixed up.