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TUSSLE WITH THE PARTNERSHIP
Well here's a thing! The Chairman of the Recreation Committee (Yasin Qadir) who is the Town Council's Youth Supremo reported to the Town Council last night that he had been summoned to a meeting with the Town Partnership Programme Manager. She told him that the Partnership was going to hold a consultation with young people to see what kind of Youth Council they wanted. In the future this Youth Council would be the authoritative voice of the Town's Youth. No adults would be invited to the consultation - no councillors and certainly no Chairman of the Recreation Committee. It was up to young people themselves to decide who this Youth Council would report to. Might be the Partnership. Might be the Town Council. Might be themselves.
A Youth Council is a great idea. It's official government policy that Parish Councils should be encouraged to set them up - indeed there's a 1,000 cash incentive for them to do so. But what on earth has it got to do with the Town Partnership There are very few Town Partnerships established so far in the UK and - as far as we know - none which have tried to take on responsibility for Youth issues. Our own Partnership was set up specifically to try and generate new employment opportunities in the town following the closure of Parker Knoll. They have failed to do that after two years - so in classic quango fashion they are now casting around for other things to do. With a headmaster as Chairman its perhaps not surprising that they have decided to start dabbling in things like Youth Councils - which have got absolutely nothing to do with them. They really should get their heads down and just concentrate on finding funding for their "mythical" Enterprise Centre (which seems to be getting lost in a fog of endless discussion ).
A few town councillors thought that this was all very strange. Surely the Town Council should not be prepared to hand over any of its meagre powers to some unelected body. Indeed surely it was the responsibility of the Mayor to fight tooth and nail to retain the Town Council's influence. If the Town Council was prepared to abdicate responsibility for formulating a Youth strategy for the town, what on earth did it think it should be involved in But here's another thing - the Mayor is actually on the Town Partnership. As soon as the debate heated up she should have withdrawn from the discussion. The conflict of interest was glaring. Far from withdrawing the Mayor stayed to argue for the Town Partnership being uniquely placed to facilitate progress on the question of a Youth Centre. The Town Council was only a "provider". Another Councillor stunningly re-wrote all the Local Government Acts that ever existed. She maintained that the Town Council was just one of the stakeholders ..... alongside and with no more rights than the Chippy Swifts, Scouts or the Rotary. A Partnership was essential to provide an overview and to co-ordinate action. This is such patent rubbish that if it comes up again the Town Clerk will have to think about ruling such talk as being out of order - from the point of view of constitutional and statute law..
As it was, the Town Council eventually insisted that the Partnership Youth Spokesman (whoever that is) should be required to act in harness with the Town Council's own Youth Supremo (Yasin Qadir) in taking forward any discussion or plans about Youth matters in the town. And do you know what The representative of the Partnership (Councillor Evans who should also have withdrawn from the discussion ages before) said that he would have to go back and consult the Partnership Steering Committee about this proposal.
The kids of this town are already up in arms about wanting some action. They have been fobbed off for years. They want a Youth Centre. You only have to read the Forum to see how strong feelings are. After doing nothing for so long the Town Council are at last getting some sort of act together. But what the youth are now promised by the Partnership apparently is a meeting in February to discuss what form a Youth Council will take. Presumably followed by a survey and then Elections and setting up of the Council. Then debates and finally some ideas - but by when Councillor Coles was rude enough to hope that things would not follow the usual Partnership timetable. The Partnership had conducted a survey ten months ago at the Freshers Fair asking young people what they wanted. Only in the last few weeks had they found a young volunteer to analyse the hundreds and hundreds of Post-it notes which the survey had generated. Rebecca Herrin spent eighteen hours producing some really interesting data based on 300 respondents. But guess what The Programme Manager told Yasin at their meeting that this information was now out of date so would have to all be researched again. (Probably didn't come up with the right answer more likely!) Its just unbelievable!
A LIVELY NIGHT AT THE COUNCIL
|There was a capacity crowd at the Town Council last night. Public Gallery and Press benches full to bursting. Democracy is taking hold in the town. Elections are coming! Councillor Greenwell's attempts to get an emergency resolution accepted to discuss the hospital situation got nowhere. What happens at the County and District is no precedent for us - we were told. In Parishes councillors must have three days notice of any business. So the debate was put off for a week to an extraordinary meeting on Monday 22nd. The Mayor then started going on about what a wonderful consort she had. To cut a long story short the Consort was going to be given a medal. Some of us present had to pinch ourselves. A medal Councillor Evans sheepishly made his way up to the Mayor's throne. The Mayor rose revealing the full magnificence of her chain of office and pinned the medal on the councillors lapel. It was a replica of the town seal on a silk ribbon with an engraved bar which read "MAYOR'S CONSORT". You could tell looking round the table that there were more than a few lumps in the throat. After such an emotional moment it was hard to return to normal business. Fortunately Councillor Coles in her report from the District Council brought us all back to earth with a bump with her account of how she had finally won the battle of the town hall loos. Apparently in acknowledgement of her sterling work the Leader of the LibDems had proposed that Eve should be invited to undertake the official opening ceremony. However the Witney Tories were having none of that. Credit for the Chippy loos would go where it properly belonged - they vetoed the proposal. Councillor Biles gave us all one of her wiggings - and quite stern she was with it. There was absolutely no point people harping on about wanting the PCT to work out a hospital deal with the District Council along the lines of Pershore and under active discussion in Cherwell District. (She was glowering in Councillor Greenwell's direction at this stage). Hilary's friend the Chief Executive of Oxfordshire PCT had read some of this nonsense on chippingnorton.net and had rung her that very afternoon to say the PCT were having none of it. So the people of Chipping Norton had better put that in their pipe and smoke it! Sounded a bit like a threat from where your correspondent was sitting. At this point an amazing racket broke out in the room above. The Nortonians pantomime rehearsal erupted in full Riverdance-type flow with foot stomping like you've never heard. A grumpy Councillor Greenwell protested that although he realised we needed the money for letting out the hall - couldn't a full council be given the respect it deserved. As if in answer, a riot then broke out in the street outside. There was shouting and sounds of smashing glass. One councillor ventured out and quickly returned looking shaken and reporting that a brick had been thrown through a window above Corbett's and there was a mob of people in the street. A steely looking Councillor Galbraith then left for active service. The meeting stuttered on but after five minutes or so the Mayor enquired "I wonder if Brian is safe" A search party began forming. It looked as if the Consort wearing his new medal was soon going to be joining the fray. But then a breathless Councillor Galbraith burst back in the room with news from the front. "It's ****** ******** who is chucking stuff out of the windows above Corbett's into the street below. There's smashed glass everywhere". This was turning into an exciting evening after all. "Somebody call the police" the Mayor commanded. At this point a furtive Val Newey crept out of the Public gallery - presumably sleuthing for an exclusive for the Chippy News. Your correspondent felt torn between his responsibilities as a councillor and his news-gathering instincts. Civic duties prevailed. The rest of the meeting was tame stuff by comparison. Too much time was taken up with the boring Councillor Alcock pursuing his personal vendetta against the much-loved and widely-respected Town Partnership. Every time the councillor raised an important new point in connection with the Partnership's progress (or - more accurately - lack of it) Councillor Grantham grumbled "I propose we now move on and take next business". Such was the pressure on Councillor Alcock to pipe down that he never managed to make his last point about the minutes of the last Partnership meeting which recorded that the Guild of Commerce had said they had never committed to any specific sum of money in support of the Programme Manager which was such a whopper that it really needed challenging. But time was pressing. Secret business could not wait. The council went into deep conclave to consider more people to whom it could present medals. Agreement was quickly reached and the councillors trooped out to survey the battered street scene.
should be censored
....according to Hilary Williams the shrill-voiced young Tory candidate for the Town Council, electioneering at the Parish Meeting last night. She's only been here a year but says she was nearly put off coming at all by the stuff on this website which gives a very unfavourable impression of the town to prospective residents. (Hilary doesn't seem to have quite twigged that we are not actually trying to attract more new residents to the town. We've got enough to be going on with). That great libertarian Councillor Graves soon put Hilary the Younger right and explained that all the prejudiced nonsense on chippingnorton.net was nothing to do with the Town Council. In that case if it can't be banned - Hilary persisted - Councillor Alcock should be charged with "conflict of interest" and be told to choose "the website" or "his seat on the Council". (Hmmm!) Councillor Graves seemed to agree with this point of view. Councillor Biles was enthusiastically egging her young right-wing protege on. The Mayor muttered menacingly about the biased editorial point of view of this website. What nobody mentioned was that the sort of website which Hilary, the other Hilary, Jo and Gina all want is now in existence. It's the Partnership website. It has cost thousands of pounds of public money. Its as dull as ditch water and nobody visits it. Take your choice! What's now quite clear is that a vote for the Chipping Norton Tories is a vote for censorship.
|Graham Birks writes: I attended the Parish Meeting on Thursday evening. I was astonished to hear from a Police Officer present that at any given time there is ONE Police Car with two Officers to cover the OX7 area, and that if for some reason that was not available it was covered by a car from Witney. In view of the ever increasing Element of funds to the Police in the Council Tax this is unacceptable. We had the quickest ever Police response in Chippy when some kids kicked a football against the Town Hall doors and the Officer was out there in about 10 seconds to confiscate their football. I was assured by the Mayor that the Town Partnership is not folding up, but nobody seemed to know who was going to pay the Partnership Manager when funds run out at the end of April. Maybe the Manager will have to go out fund raising (that is her job) to pay her own wages! If you want Pedestrian Crossings in the town you must wait until 2009, as according to Hilary Biles Oxfordshire is a big county. In the meantime the County can go on replacing Kerbstones all over the place. I wish some of these Councillors would learn to speak in Public as I had great difficulty in hearing them, the Mayors Consort started speaking OK but the longer he went on the quieter he got, or was I losing interest The Mayoral Chain of Office will be OK to take to France as long as it is looked after properly, according to Jo Graves, as when she took it abroad it slept with her. Banks look after money properly but they still get robbed. We were assured that there will never be any retail development on the 5 acres of land at Parker Knoll, although the terms of the planning permission have already been ignored. Nobody knew when negotiations between Wimpy and whoever they were selling the land to would be completed. I think the meeting raised more questions than it answered.
MAYOR BOOTED OFF TOWN PARTNERSHIP -
DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!
|It was like first day of term at the Town Council on Monday night. The Mayor told us how we were all to work together and put party politics behind us and more than that we had better speak up because the public were complaining that they couldn't hear what was going on. A member of the Public - Mark Flashman - was first on the agenda telling the Council about the quite extraordinary efforts that his group had made protesting about a development at 1,Churchill Road. They had certainly made their presence felt - in the media, on posters around the town and at meetings. He was now calling for even greater backing from the Town Council. Then a report from our County Councillor who told us that we would have to wait a few more years for a pedestrian crossing on Albion Street by the Q8 garage - despite the fact that everyone agreed one was necessary. The only way to hurry things up would be for the Town Council to stump up some money. Councillor Alcock suggested that the County was and would be receiving so much additional Council tax from all the new housing around Albion Street that the least we might expect was a pedestrian crossing. This comment was dismissed with all the contempt Hilary could muster for a councillor who just didn't understand how complex this all was and how hard she had been working on our behalf. Councillor Alcock persisted....."This is not fair on Oliver Herrin who has campaigned for this crossing for ten years and who was promised by you over two years ago that you would make sure one was provided". Hilary snarled back..."I have explained all this to Oliver Herrin and he is quite happy about the situation". Hmm. I bet. The County is not so short of money though that it can't subsidise the Districts mobile Skate n'Climb - which is so unbelievably expensive that nobody can afford to hire it. Councillor Townley told us that for a limited period as a special offer courtesy of Louise Chapman's Chill-out Fund (Hurry Hurry) it would be available to Parish Councils at half price. (Could we have the pedestrian crossing instead please) Eve Coles could not disguise her bitterness that she had been thrown off the WODC Environment Committee but said she had received permission to attend the meetings and ask questions. Well that's a relief because at least we shall continue to have somebody from Chippy chasing up street cleaning, public loos, air quality, blocked drains and rubbish collections. All subjects the Tories can't be bothered much with. It was also left to Eve to propose a resolution about the current spate of in-filling applications from garden-grabbing developers (a couple were discussed that very evening) Eve proposed training for councillors on planning issues, the preparation of a Town Plan to identify areas of "character" in the town which we should fight to defend and the employment of a Planning expert to help advise the Council on preparing its responses to applications. Brilliant proposal but too much for some town councillors who said they needed a lot more time to think about all of these revolutionary ideas. So its going to be a race by the look of it. Which will come first - the Town Plan or the Albion Street pedestrian crossing There followed a most interesting procedural wrangle. Val Newey (Flowerbeds and Pedestrian Association) wanted to ask a question from the Public Gallery. Not possible said the Mayor firmly. But many readers will remember that last year Val Newey - with the assistance of the Mayor - succeeded in joining in a Council discussion - which left many members round the table wondering why they had bothered to get elected. This time Val had a new gambit. She has been reading her Erskine May. "All you have to do is to adjourn the meting, let me ask my question and then reconvene," she proposed. Mutterings of "just who does she think she is" from the assembled gathering. The Deputy Town Clerk was consulted. "Not correct procedure " he ruled. So Val asked her question anyway - regardless. And blow me the Mayor answered it. In such unconstitutional ways is democracy undermined! Much later on - after most people in the public gallery had gone - after all the committees had been appointed - something strange happened. The Mayor was not re-appointed to the Town Partnership. How was that possible Reaching "appointments of Town Council representatives on outside bodies" at the end of a long agenda the Mayor asked for nominations for the two places on the Town Partnership. Quick as a flash the new Tory member Hilary Williams nominated fellow Tory councillor Mr Osmond. He was seconded by Sarah Wilkes (whose words "I second" were the only words she uttered all evening! - keeping up her proud record from the previous council) Then Rob Evans was nominated....and then nobody else. Indeed the Mayor in the chair was clearly not expecting any further nominations - not even for herself. This looked like a stitch up. Were we seeing the first deal struck in the new council between the new Tories and the Mayor. Its pretty obvious that - at the first meeting of the Partnership - Gina - despite losing the nomination of the Town Council - will be asked to stay on as an invaluable founder member and will be voted on to the Steering Committee of the Partnership (remember the Partnership can just vote whoever they like on to their committee and couldn't care less about democracy!) This was exactly what happened when Rob got booted off the County Council and "theoretically" lost his seat on the Partnership. So it looks as if Hilary has cleverly manoeuvred her party man on to the Partnership....was there a quid pro quo Time will soon tell. Meanwhile has Hilary (on her return from a two-week absence) persuaded Chunky that his solemn duty does lie in representing WODC on the Town Partnership Probably. I bet Chunky is at this very moment withdrawing his resignation. The Chipping Norton Town Partnership will soon be just like an outpost of the Witney Conservative party......... And so more hours of Town Council talk came to an uneventful end. And not a single word the whole evening about Jobs, Youth facilities, Traffic and Parking, Attracting tourists and visitors.....For goodness sake. Its nearly two months since the election and we still haven't got on to the real agenda.
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)