REPORT OF OAKHAM TOWN COUNCIL MEETING 7TH JUNE 2010
I must confess to a great deal of confusion. Bullying of Martin Brookes was somewhat muted.
This meeting was attended by a member of the Standards Committee for the second time – so Councillors were on their best behaviour.
So, one would think that the rules and regulations would be scrupulously followed too – wouldn’t one?
Cllr Jan Fillingham, not having attended a Council meeting since 16 December (although her rather florid signature is also absent from the attendance register on that date – this is said to be an ‘oversight’) was item number 1 ii on the agenda viz:
1. Ii To approve the absence of Cllr Mrs Jan Fillingham since December 16th 2009 from meetings of the Council and its Committees on the grounds of ill health.
Oddly at the Annual meeting on 12th May we had been told that Mrs Fillingham had now recovered. Does this illness come and go? Or do members of the Council suffer from terminal amnesia?
We had been told by Cllr Haworth, via email, that Cllr Fillingham’s tired and emotional state at Remembrance Sunday Service last November was due to her medication. Yet Cllr Fillingham in her Annual report says that she was diagnosed in January 2010. Do Councillors need a calendar of events and a prompt in the wings to remind them what they have asserted? I had seen Cllr Fillingham looking her usual impeccably turned out self in the High Street as I emerged with my bag full of medication the previous week and luckily I was able to remind Councillors of the announcement of her recovery on 12th May.
Ex Councillor Kelly attended and had clearly failed to understand the terms of the ‘six months’ rule.’ He asked why Councillors, who gave their apologies religiously at every meeting for longer than six months, were thought to be in danger of losing their seats. Although I am told Cllr Kelly does read my blog (see 26 May Six Months’ Rule blog) he clearly failed to understand it. I will just refer him back to: LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 – Section 85 and recommend that he finds someone with either a level of reasonable literacy or intellectual ability to translate this into a monosyllabic explanation.
No one seems to understand the idea that if one cannot carry out one's duties as a Councillor for longer than six months there should be some code of honour to suggest that one should allow the electors to be properly represented. However that idea goes against the more prevalent idea of an exclusive club of like minded people supporting one another through thick and thin. The code of Omerta till rules among this coterie of Councillors.
Under Item 3 Cllr Dewis stood up and asked why Cllr Brookes had failed to ascertain the situation on the boards around the bandstand. At the last meeting Cllr Brookes had asked that the boards around the bandstand be preserved. The Chairman, Cllr Haworth, then suggested that Cllr Brookes have precisely one week, whilst banned from visiting the Town Clerk to ascertain whether a friend of the Town Clerk might be in a position to take these boards. Clrr Brookes explained at the last meeting that he could not do this, particularly since Cllr Dewis and Haworth had banned him from talking or communicating with the Town Clerk. It was finally decided that the Town Clerk would carry out the research on what to do with these boards. However Cllr Dewis never lets the facts get in the way of a dig at Cllr Brookes and was happy to indulge in total amnesia about what had been decided at the last meeting.
Perhaps we should have the water tested at Victoria Hall. A worrying amount of amnesia seems far too prevalent amongst Councillors.
Item 11 – REPRESENTATIVES TO OUTSIDE BODIES raised some eyebrows amongst the three members of the public observing the Council meeting. At first it began to look as though Cllr Brookes would not be allowed to serve on any of these Committees. Cllr Brookes proposed himself to the first five committees and received absolutely no seconder whatsoever. It all began to look a little like the vendetta it is. Item 11(v) needed three members as trustees of the Victoria Hall. Cllr Fillingham and Cllr Dodds are on this committee.
The Town Clerk In his eagerness to ensure Cllr Dewis was voted onto this committee ruled rather oddly that he would only take one nomination at a time. The correct procedure would have been to accept all nominations and then had an election. But why would Oakham Town Council want to deviate into the territory of correct procedures? Instead Richard White said: ‘Uh one at a time please.’ So ruling that Cllr Dewis would be voted onto the board of Trustees and further nominations made after he had been voted in. Cllr Dodds said she would like to continue to serve as a trustee of the Victoria Hall and was duly voted in. Cllr Haworth, eager to ensure that Cllr Brookes was edged out immediately proposed himself. So instead of having to vote for four candidates for three positions, members were asked to elect Cllrs Dewis and Dodds and then have a vote between two candidates for one position. Highly irregular and rather against Standing Orders, but never mind we don’t seem to take much notice of regulations on OTC.
Remember the Standards Committee representative sitting in the public seats? As I said Councillors were on their best behaviour. This then begs the question: Are Councillors so politically ignorant as to fail to understand their highly irregular behaviour? Or did they think that the three members of the public attending the meeting would be so thick that they wouldn’t understand this finesse? Furthermore did they think that a member of the Standards Committee would be able to overlook this irregularity? I rather think they are or did. Hence my confusion – I simply can’t decide whether the Council and the Town Clerk are irremedially politically ill educated or whether they think others are even thicker than they are and won’t notice these sorts of irregularities. Would someone please let me know?
Under 11 (vi) Cllr Lucas refused to serve on the Oakham Festival Committee, reasoning that this Committee met on a Wednesday and this often clashed with Town Council meetings. Having spotted the Standards Committee representative in the public seats a small confab took place and, if only to ensure that Cllr Brookes was not edged out of every committee, he was voted onto the Festival Committee. I rather think the Wednesday clash and the prospect of Cllr Brookes being unable to attend one meeting or the other might have recommended him for the position.
But ... it gets worse! Item 11 (ix): Police Joint Action Group. Cllr Dewis stood up and, in his usual confident manner, assured the meeting that elections were no longer valid since the police wanted representation on this committee to be ‘by invitation only.’
It beggared belief. In what Universe do the police decide which Councillors oversee their activities on the Joint Action Group? The face of the Standards Officer was a picture, my chin hit the floor with a bump. Eyeing the consternation in the public seats the Town Clerk said he would come back to the meeting on the situation and let us know. Why didn’t the Town Clerk have the training, common sense or insight to know that this is entirely unacceptable and say so? Why didn't any other Councillor tell us how odd this assertion was? Code of Omerta ... again?
I rather think this constitutes proof positive that this little club of Councillors are well past their sell by date. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman made no effort to rule Cllr Dewis out of order when he asserted that he, Cllr Lucas and Cllr Haworth were those invited to serve on this committee ‘by invitation’ – although we only have Cllr Dewis’ word on this. Surely this cosy little coterie, or tyrannical triumvirate, should all be ruled off the Police Joint Action Group? One cannot have Councillors believing that democracy, police oversight and elections may be over ruled by a tyrranical police force eager to ensure that those prepared to sing from their hymn sheet should serve on the Joint Action Group, surely??????????
Cllr Brookes, with an eye on the accounts, then begged the question as to why the Town Council had approved expenditure of only £38.00 for signage to the new public loos, yet he now saw that we had paid around £125.40. He also asked why the Churches together had said they did not need electricity at the bandstand, yet used electricity. Cllr Brookes on both points said that the Council had approved expenditure or authorised use of the bandstand on certain terms and those terms were overturned with no reference back to the Council. Other Councillors treated Cllr Brookes as if he were a trouble maker. Cllr Dodds said that one shouldn’t worry about a trivial matter like a small amount of electricity – ‘the important thing was did people enjoy theirselves.’!!! The Town Clerk in his usual effort to evade the truth read from a previous bill to show that 38p’s worth of electricity had been used. However this bill did not cover the period Cllr Brookes was referring to, which the Town Clerk failed to acknowledge and Cllr Brookes had to point out this attempt at a finesse on the truth. Luckily the man from Standards understood why Cllr Brookes had asked these questions.
Is it too much to hope that RCC finally realise what a shower this Council is and call for it to be abolished? At the very least we deserve a full procedural audit – surely?
Finally could I ask the press to desist from making broadcasts or printing items on Oakham Town Council without doing their own independent newsgathering. If the radio station can't be bothered to send a reporter to the meetings and the local paper can't be bothered to send anyone other than Jim Harrison, who has a rather poisonous axe to grind, then they should not make inaccurate broadcasts. News gathering does not mean gleaning poisonous gossip from Cllrs Haworth, Lucas, Dewis, ex Councillor Jim Harrison et al and then publishing their scurrilous stories. Journalism demands a bit more effort. Without a free press (or the fifth estate if you will) we are enslaved to the tyrants who would trample democracy into an early grave.