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Friday, 25 February 2011

Rutland County Council Development and Control Licensing Committee Meeting Tuesday 22 February 2011.

Also Known As: The Sainsbury’s planning application fiasco.

There were three public deputations: Mr Fletton spoke in favour of the officers’ recommendation for refusal of the planning permission for a Sainsbury’s Supermarket to be built at the end of Land’s End Way. Why?

Well this was the elephant in the room. Put at its most simply, if I am right, Waitrose has promised to buy a site on the old Rutland College site when they move to Barleythorpe. Waitrose promise to pay top dollar and the monies will go to RCC, who have to stump up for converting Barleythorpe to a New Further Education College. But no one mentioned this all evening. The clue lay in the fact that Mr Fletton is head of Rutland / Tresham College in Oakham.

BUT – Waitrose have said that if planning permission is given to Sainsbury’s then they will not be interested in pursuing their proposed development on the old Rutland College site. So it seems - no Waitrose, no money for a new College. Ergo Sainsbury’s planning application had to be defeated.

However those are not legal or sufficient grounds for denying planning permission to Sainsbury’s. So instead we were subjected to arguments, from the planning officers of RCC about:

1. Loss of employment land. (Three hundred jobs are to be created)

2. The site is more suitable for B1 Office Development. (This site has been available for B1 Office use since 2001 and remains unused. Why? Because no one wants to build offices in the middle of nowhere if staff can’t even get a sandwich during their lunch break and have to negotiate an increasingly busy level crossing to get into the centre of town during a half hour lunch break – an impossibility.)

3. The employment of a foodstore is not as significant as would be created by the uses specified in the Local Plan. [B1 - Office use] (This is pie in the sky. This land has been available since 2001 and no offices have been built on the site. Undeveloped office land creates a 0% increase in employment. In fact the proposed store just uses up 8% of the whole area set aside for B1 Office Development. It would seem with the closure of Cottesmore and HMP Ashwell we are about to hit an economic slump of monstrous proportions. No company has been induced to build any offices on this site for over ten years. The logic of the officers’ arguments appears to be: ‘We want office jobs in the area, but since we can’t get offices into the area we won’t let anyone create retail jobs either.’ The people of Oakham desperately need bread today and the officers appear to be arguing in favour of a fantastical jam tomorrow project in the teeth of economic reality. I would argue that a Sainsbury supermarket is more likely to attract B1 Offices to the site. An employer is not going to believe it an attractive office site if there are no local amenities for staff to purchase emergency office supplies, petrol and sandwiches.)

4. Refusal is consistent with adopted Local Plan Policy and with Government Guidance in Planning Police Statement 4 [PPS4]. (There is some flexibility in that Planning Policy Statement 4 and anyway the PPS4 is ‘Guidance.’ A persuasive argument can me made that allowing a Sainsbury supermarket on the site will attract B1 office use in the longer term.)

5. The need for a foodstore of the scale proposed is marginal. (So let such a store be put on the margins of the town and attract visitors from rural destinations around the by-pass without clogging up the town centre. Conversely with the housing development at Hawkesmeade the site will no longer be so marginal).

6. PPS4 encourages main town centre uses in central locations. (Well why didn’t they say so earlier? Let’s just demolish the Castle and let Sainsbury’s build there. Or perhaps compulsorily purchase the land between Mill Street and the RCC, demolish the Museum and build a Sainsbury’s there. Surely huge great eyesores like Tesco. Waitrose, Sainsbury, Asda, Lidl, etc are better not polluting the aesthetic beauty of our town centres. No – it would seem that the planning officers have identified two alternate sites in the town – one on the Tim Norton site at the railway crossing and another, neither of which would seem to provide enough space in which to shoehorn a supermarket with petrol station. Anyway Land’s End Way is on a bus route and when the Hawkesmead estate opens, with small retail outlets in an edge of town development, the proposed Sainsbury site will no longer be so much ‘out of town’ as ‘edge of town.’ Quite the best place for an eyesore. Furthermore Waitrose proposes to build at the other end of Land’s End Way, not much nearer to the town centre, and you can bet your bottom dollar that planning permission will be recommended by the officers. I wonder why?)

7. A Sequential Assessment is required with any main town centre use proposed for a non-central location – i.e. are there more central sites that would be appropriate? (Already covered in 6 above – this argument was considered by the officers to be their clincher in turning down this planning application and much was made of it. It is merely a red herring, who wants to destroy our town centre with an eyesore? The architectural value of supermarkets is worse than a ‘carbuncle on the face of a very old friend.’ Supermarket architecture has all the charm of a Soviet bunker – except that Soviet bunkers are hidden below ground.

8. Refusal is in accordance with government guidance. (BUNKUM – it’s in accordance with the fact that Waitrose will get permission to build on the same road for some very short term financial considerations regarding a Further Education College’s relocation to Barleythorpe.)

The fact that Cllr Terry King, who pretends to sit on the fence, could be seen jubilating with Helen Briggs, the Chief Executive, after the meeting gave us a clue as to the real reasons behind this refusal. It’s time we asked the full Council to consider this planning application and only YOU the public can do that by popular demand. Write individually to each and every Councillor to demand that this application goes to the full Council. With luck that will happen after May and, with a following wind, all the Tory councillors, whipped in to vote against Sainsbury’s planning application, will have lost their seats. Only your letters and your votes can make a change in Rutland.

The meeting on 22 February was a disingenuous fiasco. The Rutland barn is full of foul smelling excrement. Let’s stop calling a spade ‘an excavating implement’ and let’s shovel this lot of ne’er do wells out of office, together with their jobsworth planning officers.


Thursday, 17 February 2011


Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 7.30 PM

On accepting apologies once again, Cllr Swiffin’s apologies were presented and voted upon. However this time the Clerk and Mayor went to some lengths to say that Cllr Swiffin last attended a meeting on 15 September (having not attended many meetings in 2010 prior to that meeting) and that his tenure on this Parish Council would be subject to Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 after 15th March 2011. That means that the six-month rule on absences from Council meetings will not kick in until 15th March. The elections are in May and I wonder whether Cllr Swiffin will be standing for re-election.

The opacity of the last meeting of this Parish Council a fortnight ago was much reduced. Councillors were on their best behaviour. At the end of my report on the last meeting I wrote:

“I would beg the Standards Committee to ensure that one of their number attends every Oakham Town Council meeting to ensure that such disrespect for the democratic process is not repeated.”

The Standards Committee are to be congratulated on ensuring that a repetition of the wilful and vicious opacity of the last meeting of this Parish Council did not recur. It is a pity that this could only have been due to the presence of Mr Grimes, of the Standards Committee, who was greeted heartily by his first name. It seems that only if a senior teacher is on duty in this unruly playground will these children behave with a little decorum and respect for the democratic process.

However members of the public were again not given access to the appendices on the Council’s agenda and so were still unable to work out the finer points of items under discussion.

In particular item16: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND SITE BACK UP (Appendix II) To consider recommendations from the Council’s I T provider regarding the above and to decide whether to authorise:
(i) purchase of Network Attached Storage
(ii) Off site back up for Council documentation

After the meeting I was shown copies of emails by a member of the public; emails from Andrew Viney of Millenium Ltd, 17 Midland Court, Oakham LE15 6RD; to the Town Clerk, Richard White on the issue of item 16.

Both emails were dated 09 February 2011. The first email was sent at 09.19 and the second at 09.20. The first email gave three options for shared storage options:

1. Windows file sharing - £60 labour excluding VAT
2. Network attached strategy - £206.99 excluding VAT
3. Windows SBS server – cost between £1,500 and £3,000 depending on specification.

You will note that the agenda supposed that the Network Attached Storage - option 2 - was presupposed without considering items 1 and 3 or explaining the options to Councillors, who, I understand, did have a copy of these emails. However I must have missed the vote on (i) of item 16 of this agenda because I do not remember anyone actually proposing to vote for the second option on this email. Of course not having the appendices in front of one makes it very difficult to follow what is being discussed and what is being voted for.

The second email began:

“Richard, Further to your conversations with Nick please find prices for the managed online backup solution…

Prices per month: PC license £2.00
Per Gb £1,40”

The Clerk, Richard White, stated that only about 5Gb of information would need to be shared and stored, whether that was per month, annually or infinitely one could only guess. Cllr Adam Lowe did a quick calculation and worked out that this would mean a cost of around £9.00 per month.

The proposal was put to the meeting and seven Councillors voted to accept the quote with one, Cllr Lowe, voting against. Cllr Lowe did not speak on this item or explain why he had voted against it. But I was able to have a brief conversation, after the meeting closed, and it seems he has reservations on the lack of other tenders or quotes but feels too new to be able to properly grasp what is being done.

I too was more than a little confused and really wonder if the Clerk had made a decision prior to the meeting and just wanted his decision rubber stamped, with no possible quarter for discussion. That would beg the question - why?

But my own reservations go far deeper. Somehow the arrangement all seems rather too cosy. Who, for instance, is Nick? Does Nick have a surname and what is his connection to Millennium Ltd? Who are the Directors of Millennium Ltd, what sort of relationship do they have with Councillors or Officers? How close is Nick to the Clerk, Richard White? Is ‘Nick’ Cllr Nick Wainwright of Rutland County Council (DC)? If not, who is he? Has ‘Nick’ been leaving tasteless messages on Martin Brookes’ blog? Can we continue to tolerate a ‘no names no pack drill’ ethos on this Council?

Having asked for FOI data in the past I somehow doubt that this rather cosy arrangement, with a no surname seemingly local mate of the Clerk’s, can be truly relied upon for properly stored information retrievable for Freedom of Information purposes. Certainly copies of what I was given last year seemed to be incomplete.

So far as I was concerned Councillors voted on an expenditure of £9.00 per month and I completely missed a vote for item 2 on (i) of the agenda. Although Cllr Lowe voted against this item of expenditure he didn’t tell the meeting why he voted against it. Surely Cllr Lowe, having started so well in demanding fiscal probity with proper tenders and quotes, is not going to be cowed by an entrenched tradition of maladministration. Is he?

Item 12. LIBRARY TO CLOSE EARLY. It seems that RCC is proposing to cut the opening hours of Oakham library by two hours per week. A letter has been received asking for £2,500 from Oakham Town Council to subsidise the loss of these opening hours and continue to open during evenings when, through bad public transport, those who work outside the town might visit the library during the week. Oakham Town Council refused to augment the loss in budget and suggested that the library close an hour earlier on two of the three days when the library closes at 7pm. Since Mondays are unlikely to have a heavy footfall it would seem better to close at 5pm rather than 7 pm on Mondays in order to allow those who get back to Oakham after six pm to visit the library on Wednesdays and Fridays.

THE CLERK’S REPORT, under item 8, told us that there is to be a march past on 31 March for the two flights left at RAF Cottesmore as a final farewell. True to form Cllrs Dewis and Lucas made a bit of a song and dance over something the RAF itself seems to want to keep quite low key. We were told that the RAF is keen that this is not a repeat of the Freedom of Entry parade.

Cllr Lucas said: “My concern is that we have such a lot of armed forces retirees in Oakham… Such a shame for my husband and my neighbour.” I gather her husband and neighbour are both ex forces.

Frankly there is a sense of entitlement in those retirees from the forces who have settled in Oakham. The presence of people like ex-commando, ex-Councillor Paul Beech has been nothing if not a stain and a blot on the political complexion of Oakham. If men like that, who seem to think that being ex-forces allows them to transport the bullying ethos and anarchic thuggery of service life into the life of this town, had not been involved in local politics we might have a better run Parish Council.

I have recently been told by Martin Brookes, who assures me that he has blogged and has evidence that Rutland County Council’s ‘investment’ of M£2 with Brent Council (at half a per cent interest) coincided with, local business, Jeakins Weir’s contract payment from Brent Council. It may be remembered that a recent prize from the Conservative Association’s fund raising draw went to Col. Weir. When do coincidental loans or ‘investments’ of this order become political dynamite?

With our dilatory local press it seems this will never even become a political bone of contention.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Why is capitalism failing?

That we are in an economic recession, there is no doubt. That right wing politics and politicians come to the fore in times of economic recession is attested to by the History of the Third Reich. There is a laager mentality which ensues; “I’m alright Jack, blow you,” which becomes prevalent during such times. That corruption becomes rife, authorities deliberately wink at sharp practices, is attested to by the lack of political will to regulate the banking sector properly and of course the Andy Coulson debacle; where even our Prime Minister was prepared to wink and give Andy Coulson a ‘second chance.’

Our Government tells us that we all have to bear the burden of the economic recession. However, our Government fails to see the obvious; that the ordinary worker never benefited during the economic boom. Labour imported migrants, which kept profits high and wages down, so playing into the hands of the fat cats who tried to keep wages to £6.00 per hour or below. These workers, many of whom are working for viable business which the banks are refusing to give loans to, are facing redundancy, higher fuel prices and higher VAT on those fuel prices. Can this Government not see that the burden cannot be borne by the poor? They bore poverty during the boom years and have no fat to cut during this recession.

In a rural area, like Rutland, there is no Job Centre at all. It is considered that £65 per week is sufficient to keep body and soul together, whilst trying to heat that body. Those on the poverty line are trying to live on cold food to save electricity, turning off their fridges to save electricity, giving up their televisions to save money and still they are not able to make ends meet. This Government, having decided that the minimum to keep a person alive is £65 per week, rising in April by some £2.00, deliberately winks at the policy of having closed Job Centres, so making the rural poor pay from £6.00 to £10 in travel costs to sign on in order to receive their paltry subsidy. These travel costs are not taken into account by any Government, so each person who has to travel to sign on is surviving on less than the bare minimum the Government considers it possible to live on - of £65 per week.

I joined the Conservative Party under Ted Heath and frankly that Party would now be considered unconscionably Socialist in its care for the poor, its commitment to the National Health Service and a level playing field in education. Our best Universities are embracing academic decline as they raise their fees to £9,000 per annum, so making an education, once more, a privilege for those who can afford it, rather than merit it. It is time those who do have fat to cut are made to acknowledge that too many people are being made to live well below the poverty line, the real poverty line which means that at the end of a fortnight there are three or four days in which even pasta at 28p a packet or stale bread reduced to 30p a packet is beyond their means. It is time we addressed the endemic corruption, which relegates more and more people to the ‘sin of poverty’ and started demanding that we no longer wink at the felonies of capitalism stripped, as it has become, of moral virtue or ethical considerations.

Corruption impoverishes us further and it is time we took action against companies who gain insider information about PFI contracts for say the Air Ambulance Service; ex-military or corrupt police types who set themselves up as ‘private eyes’ and tap our phones and correspondence; banks who pull the rug on viable companies and cricketers who bowl no-balls for profit. These are just the visible tip of a very destructive ice-berg which is holing the Ship of State. We are closing our eyes and ears to all the alarm bells in the hope that the holes won’t sink us.

We are sinking and, whilst the first-class passengers are jumping into the lifeboats, the rest of us are facing a very bleak future.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Report on Oakham Town Council Meeting 2 February 2011

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 February 2011 at 7.30 PM

Last night’s meeting of Oakham Town Council was most notable for the deliberate opaqueness which Councillors conducted their business. If an item on the agenda could be fudged or alluded to in the most obscure manner some Councillors appeared to take great delight in doing so. Furthermore it seemed to me that the Mayor and Councillor Dewis had come to some sort of agreement to be as passively aggressive as they could when avoiding correct procedure, knowing this would provoke ex-Councillor Martin Brookes, who has campaigned tirelessly for correct procedures to be followed. The Council started by accepting apologies from Cllr George Swiffin, who has not attended meetings for some time. The six-month rule appears to have been deliberately overlooked and members of the Council took great delight in proposing, seconding and accepting his apologies once more.

There were just two of us sitting on the public benches, we need more witnesses to this outrageous effort to ensure that accountability and transparency is avoided. Under the sadly less than brilliant chairmanship of the Mayor, Councillor Sharon Spencer, we reached item 9: Deputations by the Public and the Mayor looked at me inviting me, I assumed, to make some sort of speech on a petition I had delivered earlier in the day. I had not intended to say anything but merely said that I trusted that all Councillors had received a copy of a petition nominating Martin Brookes for his ‘Services to the Community’ (in writing his blog and particularly citing his commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in local government). It was confirmed that the very efficient Deputy Town Clerk had indeed photocopied and distributed the nomination to all Councillors.

When we reached Item 11: ‘High Sheriff’s certificate for ‘Service to the Community’ the Mayor, rather pointedly, said that the Oakham Town Council, not the public, had been asked to make the nominations and invited nominations from Councillors, so justifying her decision to ignore the nomination of Martin Brookes by members of the public. Someone called Tommy Southern(?) was nominated although no one felt it appropriate to give the citation. All that we, on the public benches, could ascertain was that he was around 100 years old and that he qualified since he was alive during the 60 years of the Queen’s reign. If Tommy Southern(?) has done great service in the community the Councillors did not feel it right to explain what that service might have been. Councillors were not asked to vote on the public petition, nominating Martin Brookes, and after proposing and seconding Tommy Suthern(?) they then proceeded to ask for more nominations, rather than ascertaining which candidates were to be nominated and then voting on all candidates. I do wonder whether they realise quite how defective their voting procedure is. Unfortunately the Clerk doesn’t appear to understand voting procedures either, so the advice the Council receives from its trained officer is lamentable too. Having refused to consider Martin Brookes there was only one other nomination, but we, the public, did not know that Councillors would only be nominating two candidates. It all smelt of a private pre-meeting by allegedly non-political Councillors. However, rather more credibly, Cllr Lorna Gray then said she would nominate Pam Gilbert for her services to the Guides over a long period of time. At least we knew why Pam Gilbert was being nominated.

I am told that the next High Sheriff is to be someone called Peter Lawson who was ‘big’ in Arts for Rutland. It ill behoves a High Sheriff to ask a handful of people, who are rather shaky on Standing Orders and voting procedures, to nominate people known personally to them. I would have thought it more usual for the public to be asked for their views through the local press. Heigh Ho - never mind.

Item 12 FUTURE MEETINGS – To agree on an amended schedule of meetings up to the Local Government Elections due to be held on May 5th 2011. The Mayor, Sharon Spencer said: “Proposed changes are before you. Any comments?” As a member of the public I certainly did not have a copy of the proposed changes which were before the Council. The Council agreed to hold a Meeting on the 27th,whether that was the Annual Meeting or some other meeting I’m still not clear. However, we, in the public benches, were not aware which month they meant either. It could have been 27th of February, March, April or May. Since no month was given we were completely in the dark. Martin Brookes, from the public benches then asked: “What month.” At which the Mayor, Sharon Spencer, adjusted her shoulders, with all the nonchalance of a prize-fighter and replied to him: “Mr Brookes you know you’re not meant to ask questions.”

Clearly Martin Brookes was meant to be provoked and the Mayor was leading the attack. A sad day for the chain of office and an abuse of her position; her vendetta against Mr Brookes became palpable at this point. Cllr Alf Dewis turned around and smirked at us. Cllr Dewis has a wonderful smirk, full of menace and ill concealed belligerence.

The opaque and obscure dissemination of information constituted a clear and deliberate effort to exclude those on the public benches from discovering which month was being suggested. This truculent, confrontational, hostile and fractious Mayor was not doing her public duty in chairing the meeting. Sharon Spencer was purposefully and consciously aiming to ensure that we, the public, were not privy to what had been decided and this constitutes a calculated and intentional attempt to duck transparency.

This is not good enough.

Item 13 FLORAL DISPLAY AND WATERING CONTRACTS. It was decided that this year the Council would split this contract into two separate contracts. The Deputy Mayor, Mark Woodcock, appeared to ruffle an awful lot of feathers when he proposed that both contracts go out to tender, rather than be put by invitation to selected businesses on the Council’s register of approved companies. Sharon Spencer offered Mark Woodcock an opportunity to change his proposal, which he tacitly declined to do. The Mayor mentioned a ‘tight schedule’ by way of encouragement to Cllr Woodcock, to amend the proposal from an open tender. The Mayor then suggested: “What about approaching local companies?” Mark Woodcock was adamant – “Open tender with advertisements in the Rutland Times and Rutland Mercury.” So there it was, much to the consternation of Alf Dewis and Sharon Spencer – invitations to tender could be made to local businesses but it was also to be an open tender after all. Quite what had been going on behind the scenes one could only surmise.

Item 15 REQUEST FROM OAKHAM HOME GARDENS AND ALLOTMENT SOCIETY. The more I see of Cllr Adam Lowe the more impressed I am; a local manager of a business and a Special Constable. At an earlier meeting of the Council he had expressed doubts at the request for a subsidy of £600 towards renewing the fencing (some 84 metres) around the allotment, particularly since only one quote seemed to have been sought. He had volunteered to visit the site at the last meeting, and the Clerk had ensured that he too went along. Cllr Lowe proposed that the Council should agree to subsidise new fencing subject to ensuring that three quotes were sought. Cllr Lowe said: “If we give them money we need to know that money is spent wisely and three tenders are necessary.” He went on to point out that this would also be “fairer” and asked that the quotes be given to the Town Council. Hooray! At last we have one Councillor who understands that money can’t be thrown at projects without some sort of fiscal probity. What a ray of hope and light, without Cllr Lowe’s intervention, at the last meeting, we might once again have distributed Council largesse without ensuring proper financial accountability. Cllr Lowe’s description of what was being discussed was clear, to the point, sensible and easily understood by those on the public benches. He did not dissemble, talk in riddles and code or try to make his report to the Council opaque; a refreshing interlude of clarity in an evening of otherwise deliberate opacity.

By Item 16 CORE STRATEGY INVOLVEMENT AND HEARINGS even Cllr Dodds said she was ‘confused’ at the half communicated allusions to the item under discussion. Cllr Dodds was firmly shut up by the Mayor when she tried to insist that, under item 18: HOLLAND’S FAIR, the Fair use their own generators, rather than plug into the bandstand electricity point. She had anticipated item (ii) prior to considering (i) whether the fair should be held at all and what price was to be charged - £300. However, I would have thought it essential for Councillors to have known whether Hollands Fair would be using the electricity in the bandstand before voting on the price to be paid for the use of Cutts Close. It became obvious that some sort of strategy had been decided, prior to the meeting, on how to conduct the business of the evening.

Only Cllr Tor Clark voted against holding the Fair in Cutts Close. I rather think this was because he had, in the past, voted against the Cottesmore Hunt using Cutts Close and is determined to show a degree of consistency in his voting practices. But I might write to him to ascertain whether this is the case.

At item 18 (ii), rather than allow Cllr Dodds to propose that the bandstand electricity point should not be used by Holland’s Fair, Cllr Alf Dewis, with some rather over hasty alacrity, made the proposal - leaving Cllr Dodds standing at the starting gate. Cllr Dewis is always extremely keen to be seen to make a proposal ahead of the rest of the pack, but if seeing his name in print on the minutes gives him a small thrill then perhaps it would be churlish to cavil at a little minor juvenile enthusiasm for the apparent notoriety he seeks in appearing in the minutes as a ‘proposer’. I don't know, perhaps we shouldn’t try to deny him these small pleasures. Certainly the pleasure he gains by deliberately provoking Martin Brookes is more to be damned and in this he again succeeded at the end of the evening when the vote was put to exclude the public at item 21 to exclude the public from Item 22: OAKHAM FITNESS CENTRE.

Martin Brookes asked if someone would let us know when we would be readmitted to the meeting. Rather than allow the Mayor to answer Cllr Dewis said: “You can come back in in the morning and ask the Clerk tomorrow.” Cllr Dodds also said “You can ask Richard tomorra.” Cllrs Dewis and Dodds made it clear that they did not want the public back into the meeting after we had left. Martin Brookes is a bit of a stickler for correct procedure – and rightly so. Cllr Dewis seems to treat the local Council as his private fiefdom and is rather dismissive of standing orders or correct procedure, as are many other Councillors, including the Mayor. Martin Brookes pointed out to Cllr Dewis that it is usual to tell the public what decision has been taken, in camera, before closing the meeting – something, Martin Brookes pointed out to Cllr Alf Dewis that the RCC abides by with religious regularity. He also pointed out that Cllr Dewis often attends RCC meetings and knows what the procedure is. Jutting his chin out and smirking Cllr Dewis began to raise his voice – we left Very kindly Cllr Lowe said he would let us know when we could come back into the meeting.

The item Councillors wished to discuss in camera was: ‘Item 22: OAKHAM FITNESS CENTRE – To discuss various matters and to decide on an appropriate way forward.’ Clear as mud - another very obscure agenda item. This Council clearly does not relish public scrutiny. True to his word Cllr Lowe invited us back into the meeting. However the Mayor, intent on avoiding telling the public what had been decided, merely closed the meeting without any explanation of what decision had been made. I stood up after the meeting closed and said: “Madam Chairman you ought to tell us what decision you came to on item 22.” Pursing her lips in a thin line, Cllr Sharon Spencer replied: “We discussed the Fitness Centre. We deferred it to the next meeting. There’s nothing to tell you.” My reply was: “So tell us that before you close the meeting.” Cllr Dewis smirked at Martin Brookes with his usual provocative aggressive defiance. Unfortunately Cllr Dewis’ provocation finally hit its mark. He, it was, who had erroneously suggested that we come back in the morning to ascertain what had been discussed.

This Council needs a great deal of public scrutiny. Their resentment at following Standing Orders and allowing their actions to be understood is reprehensible. Their insistence on absolute privacy in policy decisions is not only disrespectful to the public, it smacks of a tyrannical mindset. It should be remembered that this Mayor said she was intent on attaining a ‘gold standard’ for this Parish Council. Unfortunately, with a democratically ill-educated cavalier coterie at the core of the Council, it is unlikely that even base metal could be forged into any sort of medal of democratic attainment. I would beg the Standards Committee to ensure that one of their number attends every Oakham Town Council meeting to ensure that such disrespect for the democratic process is not repeated. Unfortunately Martin Brookes was less than equable in his condemnation of Cllr Dewis’ smirking countenance after the meeting had been closed, but this meeting was nothing if not far short of the correct standards locals should expect from their Parish Councillors. Had the press been in attendance it might have made a difference. On the few occasions the press have attended the business of the evening has been better conducted. Unfortunately the press rely on regurgitated Council press releases, via the Journalism Lecturer, Cllr Tor Clark, to report the news in Oakham. You’d think Mr Clark’s journalistic grasp of correct democratic procedures might make him something of a stickler for accountability to the public. Wouldn’t you?