13 December 2017

Town Council Meeting Attendance Failure






Past warnings from several local residents about the long-term failure to maintain twelve councillors on New Mills town council came true on Monday:  there were not enough councillors present to hold the latest town council meeting.

The number of seats on New Mills Town Council  is twelve.  There are currently nine members, with three vacancies waiting to be filled.

The number of councillors needed for a New Mills Town Council meeting to be quorate is four.

The 11 December 2017 council meeting saw six councilors fail to answer the duly-issued summons to the meeting.

The three councillors who heeded the summons were Atkins, Ray;  Bate, Barry;  Harman, Rebecca.

The six no-shows were  Allen, Lynne;  Ashton,Tony;  Dowson, Lance;  Lamb, Claire;  Tyldesley, Joyce;  Whewell, Sean.

Here is what The Good Councillor Guide (4th Edition) says about attendance at council meetings:

As a councillor you have a responsibility to attend meetings when summoned to do so; the notice to attend a council meeting is, in law, a summons, because you have a duty to attend.



Upcoming Training For Town and Parish Councillors




A serving New Mills councillor has kindly forwarded the following interesting comminication that has been sent out by High Peak Borough Council to all town and parish council clerks in the High Peak area.

In the light of events at New Mills town hall in recent years it will be most interesting to see which  councillors attend:


"Subject: Code of Conduct Refresher Training - 27 February 2018

To:  All Parish Clerks

There is to be a Code of Conduct Refresher Training session on Tuesday 27 February 2018 at 6 pm in the cafĂ© area, Pavilion Gardens, Buxton.  The session should last for a maximum of two hours.

This session is open to all Borough and Parish Councillors, and is recommended as essential training for all members.

Please would you circulate details of this session to all your Parish Councillors and confirm who is able to attend in advance of the session.

Regards etc..."

-------------------------------------------------------








Reaction of some people who have just heard about the failure of attempted secret ballots in New Mills council chamber




16 November 2017

High Peak Borough Council Leader’s Illegal Secret Ballot Scheme Thwarted






Should the Leader of a council with a £10 million budget of public money promote or be involved with law-breaking?

That is the situation residents of the High Peak find themselves in today as a result of antics of Conservative Leader of the Borough Council Tony Ashton.

Councillor Tony Ashton is a Conservative councillor on both High Peak Borough Council and New Mills Town Council within the borough.

Cllr Ashton proposed a policy for co-options of new members of the town council that requires secret ballot to be the method of voting during council meetings when co-options are being decided.  Cllr Ashton proposed this illegal policy to the New Mills town council meeting of 11 September 2017.

An up-front definition of the most important term used in this article:  Illegal: Forbidden by law.


Here is why Cllr Ashton’s policy is illegal

The relevant extract of Cllr Ashton’s policy:

“Paragraph 5:  Councillors shall vote by secret ballot under the agenda item.”

The law that governs the method of voting during town and parish council meetings is the Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraph 13: “13 (1)  Unless otherwise provided by the council’s standing orders the manner of voting at meetings of a parish council shall be by a show of hands.”

The law refers to a council’s formal standing orders.  The relevant part of the New Mills Town Council’s standing orders is paragraph 3 (q):  “Unless standing orders provide otherwise, voting on a question shall be by a show of hands. At the request of a councillor, the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each councillor present and voting gave his vote for or against that question…"

Councillors Tony Ashton and Ray Atkins have erroneously claimed that the council’s standing orders have somehow “been changed”.  To prove that they haven’t, here is the standing order specifying the method which must be used if the New Mills town council wishes to change its standing orders:

“Standing Order 25 (b):  A motion to add to or vary or revoke one or more of the council’s standing orders, except one that incorporates mandatory statutory requirements, shall be proposed by a special motion, the written notice by at least 6 councillors to be given to the Proper Officer in accordance with standing order 9 above.”

At no time during this matter has the necessary written notice by at least six councillors been given to the town council’s Proper Officer.  Therefore it is a fact that no change has been made to the council's standing orders.


New amendment, same illegal voting method

When Cllr Ashton’s illegal co-option policy came to the vote, an amendment proposed by LibDem Cllr Ray Atkins was carried.  Unfortunately, this amendment also included the fatally flawed ‘secret ballot’ method of voting in New Mills town council meetings:

“Councillors shall vote by a show of hands under the agenda item, unless two or more councillors request a secret ballot, in which case voting on the co-option process shall be by secret ballot.”


First council meeting following the illegal new policy

On 13 November 2017 came the first attempt to use the illegal co-option policy in New Mills council chamber  – illegal because of the prohibited ‘secret ballot’ method of voting that it contains.

What transpired was as follows:

The town council chairman read out Item 7 on the agenda, which was: ‘Co-option applications and decision for a Councillor for Whitle Ward’

Cllr Lance Dowson read out his prepared statement, published yesterday on HPT.

Chair of the council Barry Bate started to explain what would happen in this agenda item.  There were three candidates for one seat.  Ballot papers were prepared with the three names on.

The Town Clerk then held up the tenth (latest) edition of Arnold-Baker on Local Council Administration for all councillors to see.  This is a fat volume with a striking yellow cover.  The Clerk read out, verbatim, the part of that authoritative book which explains lawful voting during town and parish council meetings.

When voting time came, no-one present in the room seemed overtly interested in having a secret ballot.  It would have been pointless if they had, because Cllr Lance Dowson explicitly exercised his legal right as a councillor to require a named vote on the agenda item.

Accordingly, all votes on the co-option candidates were by show of hands.  This is how it must be on a well-run local council.  We don't need to report who voted for whom; that is not the point  of all this.


Here comes the 'Jerry's Final Thought' bit:

The fact that every councillor has the legal right at all times to a named vote on any decision being made by a council showed up the ultimate futility of this ‘secret ballot’ plot.

Unnecessary reputational and political self-harm was caused, and all for no benefit.

We look forward to the time we are able to report that the current illegal, unlawful co-option policy of New Mills town council has been corrected to comply with both the law and also with the openness and accountability standards that are now required of those in public life.

All that is needed to accomplish this is to strike out the sentence(s) in the policy that refer to ‘secret ballot’ as the method of voting.

And finally…

Welcome successful candidate Joyce Tyldesley to membership of New Mills town council.

15 November 2017

Authoritative NALC Verdict On New Mills Town Council's Co-options Debacle







Esteemed HPT readers will be aware of the co-options mess that New Mills town councillors got themselves into following the 2015 local elections.

At those elections, only six councillors were elected to the council's twelve places.  Where not enough members have been publicly elected to a town or parish council, the law permits that council to internally co-opt new members to fill the vacant places.

Following the co-options debacle, extensively covered here on HPT since the local elections, here is the recent letter sent to New Mills Town Council by the specialist local government solicitor employed by the National Association of Local Councils:


"Client: New Mills Town Council
Subject Matter: Co-option

"I have been allocated this request to advise upon and I have seen your emails dated 4 and 6 September 2017 together with an undated four page summary of the co-option process with attachments labelled 1(a) to 1(i) and 2(a) to 2(d); an extract of the Town Council Standing Orders; a copy of Town Council minutes 2015/138 to 2015/140; an email dated 13 May 2015 from the Town Clerk to the Town Council Chair and a four page document containing recommendations from Councillor Diana Ruff and Councillor Sue Bean on behalf of the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils.

"The issues in this request is whether it was valid for the Town Council to co-opt councillors without allocating them to specific Wards and whether it was appropriate to co-opt an applicant who was not available for interview. I will deal with these questions in that order.

"New Mills Town Councillors represent a Ward and it is not possible to have any Town Councillors who do not represent a Ward. At the co-option process five councillors should have been co-opted for Ollersett Ward from those that applied for that Ward. I understand that only one application was for Thornsett Ward and if that person was not considered suitable, then the vacant position of Town Councillor for Thornsett Ward should have been re-advertised to find additional applicants. It was not appropriate to co-opt an applicant for the Ollersett Ward into a position reserved for the Thornsett Ward. When the Thornsett Ward vacancy was re-advertised it would have been permissible for an unsuccessful candidate for the Ollersett Ward to apply for Thornsett Ward if they wished.

"As the co-option process was by interview it was inappropriate for a candidate to be co-opted despite the fact that they had not been available for interview. In doing so the Town Council operated an unfair process which was in breach of the Town Council's own resolution as to how to process the applications. As you have correctly identified it was not possible to reverse that decision except by special motion on notice as under Standing Order 7.

"However, Section 82 of the Local Government Act 1972 states that the actions of a person elected as a councillor will still be valid despite them not being qualified. Although the point has not been decided by a court it is highly likely that this provision also covers councillors who were co-opted by a faulty procedure. As a result, the actions of the co-opted councillors are not invalid and council business has not been damaged. Nevertheless, there were serious failings in the co-option process and those failings must be remedied.

"I note that at the meeting for the co-options there were six councillors attending and a further six were co-opted making twelve councillors in all. I note from the High Peak Borough Council website that there are currently ten councillors so I assume that there are two vacancies for the Town Council to fill, either by election or by co-option. One the vacancies should be assigned to Thornsett Ward so a validly elected or co-opted councillor can be found for that Ward. The remaining unallocated councillors should all be allocated to Ollersett Ward to ensure that all Wards are represented by the correct number of councillors. Every councillor must be representing a Ward.

"For future co-options a policy should be adopted by the Town Council to ensure that co-option takes place to specific wards on the basis of the ward applied for by a co-option candidate. The Town Council should also adopt a policy guaranteeing a fair process applied to all candidates for any position with the Town Council.

"I hope that this clarifies the position but if the council requires any further information or advice please contact NALC again.

Yours sincerely

Gary Barker
Solicitor
National Association of Local Councils
109 Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3LD"


Statement by Cllr Lance Dowson to the New Mills Town Council meeting of 13 November 2017


Latest edition of the town and parish council bible


As the New Mills town council chairman was about to start discussion on Agenda item 7 "Co-option applications and decision for a Councillor for Whitle Ward" , Cllr Lance Dowson read out the following statement.

Because Cllr Dowson's statement on this issue supports the public good of transparency and openness in local government, it is published here to promote wider public understanding:


"I wish to make a statement about the next agenda item:  the co-option of a councillor onto this council to represent Whitle ward.

"I will be taking no part in any debate or discussion regarding any of the applicants because, as I said at the meeting of the 11th September when council adopted this Policy, I believe that by implementing and using this policy you, as councillors, are not complying with the Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12 Para 13 (1) which states that 'unless otherwise provided by the councils standing orders voting at a meeting of the parish council shall be by a show of hands'

"The relevant part of New Mills Town Council’s standing orders is:-
“3 - meetings generally... (c) - 'unless standing orders provide otherwise voting on a question shall be by a show of hands'

"NALC’s Legal Topic Note 5 of February 2015 (Paragraph 60):-
'A secret ballot is permissible only if standing orders so permit'

"The town clerk's advice that she offered you, as your proper officer, at the 11 September 2017 meeting when you adopted this policy.

"I believe, therefore, that you are not following the relevant legal statutes, the councils policies and not taking notice of, and following, the legal and professional advice offered to you.

"I would point out that, I believe, a policy which includes any degree of secret voting, such as the one that you are about to implement, is not in the public interest and by implementing and following such a policy councillors are not acting in the public’s best interests by not being as open and transparent as possible and thereby enabling residents to understand the reasoning behind the decisions that you make, and by restricting access to information when the wider public interest or the law requires it.

Thank you."


31 October 2017

Some Other Town and Parish Councils Break the Law, So Why Can't We?




A New Mills councillor has been in touch about the current attempt by some New Mills councillors to use secret ballots during upcoming town council meetings.

One of the councillor’s complaints about High Peak Transparency’s coverage is that HPT draws public attention to New Mills town council’s new-fangled secret ballot scheme while at the same time ignoring two High Peak parish councils which have already used secret ballots during council meetings.

The standing orders and relevant recent minutes of those two other councils have been sent to HPT.  What follows are the results of scrutiny of those documents.  One council fails in its public duties of transparency, openness and accountability.  The other council suffers the same failures and in addition breaks the law while doing so.

A reminder of the relevant frameworks of best practice and law:

The best practice guide for everybody in public life is The Seven Principles of Public Life.  Additionally, the best practice guide for members of town and parish councils is The Good Councillors Guide. The law that governs the method of voting in town and parish council meetings is The Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraph 13.

Full text of The Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraph 13:

13 (1)  Unless otherwise provided by the council’s standing orders the manner of voting at meetings of a parish council shall be by a show of hands.

13 (2 )  On the requisition of any member of the council the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each member present and voting gave his vote for or against that question.


----------------------------------------------

The secretive local councils referred to in the complaint about HPT’s coverage are Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council and Hayfield Parish Council.


Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council

Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council has fiddled with the National Association of Local Council’s Model Standing Orders and altered them to include secret ballots as a voting method during its meetings.

This tampering means that Chapel parish council flouts the Seven Principles of Public Life, which include Openness and Accountability.  Chapel’s parish councillors also contravene the Good Councillors Guide containing the same values of Openness and Accountability.

If Chapel parish councillors contravene the Good Councillors Guide, which they have done, then are they bad councillors?  By definition, yes they are. By flouting the Good Councillors Guide, Chapel parish councillors are bad councillors.  Until they come back into line with the best practice set out in that Guide and amend the council’s current dodgy standing orders back to the good model.

Any Chapel-en-le-Frith parish councillor who in future exercises his or her legal right to a named vote - on any agenda question that other councillors were planning to be a secret ballot - defeats the secret ballot method of voting.  Self-evidently, that councillor is then no longer in the bad councillor category.


Hayfield Parish Council

The documentation sent to HPT relating to Hayfield Parish Council reveals that council also contravenes the Good Councillor Guide and the Seven Principles of Public Life.

Even more seriously, Hayfield Parish Council broke the law while doing so.

Hayfield Parish Council has not fiddled with its standing orders in respect of the voting method in council meetings.  In Hayfield council’s standing orders, the manner of voting at council meetings is required to be by a show of hands.

But contrary to its standing orders a recent Hayfield parish council meeting used a secret ballot when voting.  The law prohibits this.  Hayfield Parish Council broke the law, in this case the Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraph 13(1).

Hayfield parish council has already been told off by DALC for trying to do co-options in Part Two of council meetings during which the public are excluded.  Doing co-options in that part of a parish council meeting breaks the law.

A question for all the good people who care for the reputation of the town of Hayfield:

Are the lawbreakers going to persist with their offences in future Hayfield parish council meetings?
Or will they come in from the cold and be lawful, transparent and accountable in their method of voting in future council meetings?








11 October 2017

Analysis Of The Secret Ballot Ploy, Part Three: The Law That Will Stop Secret Ballots In New Mills Council Meetings




Correspondents have been in touch, concerned that an attempt by one or more bad councillors could be made to change the standing orders of New Mills town council.

The reason we can describe them as bad councillors is that their attempted change would be to try to insert ‘secret ballot’ as a voting method in town council meetings.

This would be in place of the open, transparent ‘show of hands’ voting method.

This scenario is unlikely, but an attempt at it is possible.

The pro-transparency forces like to plan for every eventuality.  Therefore, those pro-concealment councillors who want to pervert the standing orders of this town’s council need to be aware of the following law of this country.  This law will stop any such 'secret ballot' plot from working.

Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12:
Paragraph 13 (2):

On the requisition of any member of the council the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each member present and voting gave his vote for or against that question.

So long as at least one New Mills town councillor uses this legal right in the council chamber, no secret ballot can take place.

More than one councillor has stated that they will immediately use their above legal right under the law if any secret ballot were to be proposed in a town council meeting.

Because this pro-transparency law is contained in a statute, no council policy or standing order can prevent any councillor from using their legal right to a named vote when the new co-options are being voted on in a forthcoming town council meeting.


10 October 2017

Analysis Of The Secret Ballot Ploy. Part Two: The Seven Principles of Public Life





When considering the scheme in New Mills by Conservative Councillor Tony Ashton and Liberal Democrat Councillor Ray Atkins that attempts to sneak secret ballots into town council business, a look at the Seven Principles of Public Life is invaluable.

Truly enlightening in fact.  Seekers of honesty and truth, read on...


The Seven Principles

The Seven Principles of Public Life apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder.  Needless to say, all councillors are public office holders.

1. Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

2. Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3. Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4. Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5. Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6. Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.

7. Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.


Compare and Contrast 

Compare the Seven Principles of Public Life with the murky scheme to sneak secret ballots into New Mills council chamber.

Accountability and Openness are the two Princples of Public Life that would be directly flouted in any attempt at a secret ballot by councillors in the town of New Mills:

Accountability:  holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness:  holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner.


Background

The Seven Principles of Public Life were first published in 1995 by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

It is remarkable how the Seven Principles have stood the test of time since their publication in the last century.

For further information on the Seven Principles and the work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, visit the Committee’s website and blogsite.

The Seven Principles are viewable direct on the government's official website by following this link.


Analysis Of The Secret Ballot Ploy. Part One: Lawbreaking




This is one of a series of articles that will analyse the deeply troubling attempt by two town councillors to sneak secret ballots into the business of New Mills town council, which is a public body.

This article sets out the law governing the matter.  Other articles in the series will set out:

The Seven Principles of Public Life

Practical obstructions to a secret ballot taking place in the New Mills council chamber

The secret ballot scheme's unintended consequences.

The damage to the public reputation of the council if any secret ballots were to be attempted

Transparency in public life



The law of voting in council meetings

New Mills town council would break the law if it were to attempt a secret ballot during a council meeting.

Here is the law as applied to the facts of this case:

The Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraph 13 (1):

Unless otherwise provided by the council’s standing orders the manner of voting at meetings of a parish council shall be by show of hands.

In the case of New Mills town council, its standing orders do not 'provide otherwise'.  The council's standing orders require that the manner of voting at meetings must be by show of hands.  The relevant council standing order is 3 (q):

“Unless standing orders provide otherwise, voting on a question shall be by a show of hands. At the request of a councillor, the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each councillor present and voting gave his vote for or against that question…"

To use the language of town and parish council standing orders, LGA 1972 Schedule 12 Paragraph 13(1) above is a ‘mandatory statutory requirement’.

Councillor Ray Atkins has recently claimed that the council’s standing orders “have been changed”.

With all due respect to Cllr Atkins, who is customarily a decent law-abiding councillor, his claim on this matter does not stand up to scrutiny.  Here is the only method the New Mills town council’s standing orders can be changed:

Standing Order 25 (b):
“A motion to add to or vary or revoke one or more of the council’s standing orders, except one that incorporates mandatory statutory requirements, shall be proposed by a special motion, the written notice by at least 6  councillors to be given to the Proper Officer in accordance with standing order 9 above.”

That change to standing orders has not happened.

No special motion to change the standing orders has been proposed by any councillor, let alone by the named six that would be required in advance in the event that any attempt at a secret ballot in the New Mills council chamber were to be tried.

Nor has any written notice of such a thing been received by the council's Proper Officer.



20 September 2017

Some Additional Information About the Heritage Centre's Continuance or Closure



Picture courtesy of the Buxton Advertiser


Today's online edition of the Buxton Advertiser carries the following story, published here verbatim:

The future of New Mills Heritage and Information Centre has been thrown into doubt after it emerged that the landlords had reached the ‘end of the relationship’ with the tenants - the town council.

Site owners Maryland Securities Limited says it has not heard from New Mills Town Council since the lease came up for renewal nearly a year ago.

The town council is in charge of the day-to-day running of the facility. But speaking to the Advertiser this week, Maryland associate director Robert Timson said: “We think it is the end of our relationship with the council. “We put the terms of the new lease to them several months ago but they have yet to respond and say whether they are suitable. “Discussions and negotiations have been protracted from their side, we have given them every opportunity to say if they want to stay but heard nothing back.

“We are already making plans on how we can develop the site as we believe the council wish to give notice and look for new premises. “There is no ill-feeling or upset on our part and to some extent the ball is in the council’s court and we await their response.”

The centre - which is run by the town council and is housed in several rooms on the ground floor of a converted building - was opened in July 1989 and attracts 12,000 people every year. But despite the uncertainty surrounding it, town council chairman Barry Bates insisted this week that the authority was ‘committed to the Heritage Centre’. “However, I can’t tell you the council’s plans for the centre’s future because whether we chose to keep the lease on or not has not been fully discussed with councillors and it will have to be put to the vote to see where we go from here,” he said.

The running costs of the centre, which generates income by selling books, maps and trails, are met by the town council. An administrator employed by the town council is responsible for the day-to-day running of the centre and is assisted by a large group of experienced volunteers. The current curatorial adviser is a former member of staff of The Manchester Museum.



Here is the link to the original article in the online edition of the Buxton Advertiser:

http://www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk/news/axe-looms-for-new-mills-heritage-centre-after-26-years-1-8763393


12 September 2017

New Mills Heritage Centre May Close After 28 Years


Model of New Mills in circa 1883. The large central empty space is where Union Street now is



Last night's New Mills town council meeting learned that formal Notice to Quit has been served on New Mills Town Council in respect of the New Mills Heritage And Information Centre by the landlord Maryland Securities.

Set up by local history enthusiasts in the late 1980s, its official opening in 1989 was conducted by broadcaster Brian Redhead and local Labour stalwart Marion Williams.

An interesting fact stated in Sir Martin Doughty's 2003 book The Park Under The Town:
"High Peak Borough Council now meets the annual rental costs."  This may explain why some recent correspondents with HPT mistakenly believed the annual cost to the New Mills town council of the Heritage Centre is "only" £5,000 per year.  In fact it costs the New Mills council taxpayers about £14,000 every year, according to the latest accounts prepared for the town council.

The capital cost of converting the then-derelict cellar to house the Heritage Centre was £80,000 in 1989 prices.  This was nearly all public money spent on the project to get it open.

Among other things, the wonderful large but delicate model (pictured) of the town at the time of the key Union Road bridge construction will have to be removed from the Centre and preserved very carefully.


06 September 2017

Secret Ballots In A Council Chamber? The Law’s Antidote





Are you a councillor who craves secret ballots in New Mills town council chamber?

The following comment arrived today at 13:39 from an esteemed HPT reader using the handle 'Protect Democracy' :

"HPT You say Councillors are required by law to vote by a show of hands'

"In the case of co-option, however, this simply isn't true. If you google 'cooption processes for town and parish councils' you will find a variety of co-option measures which include show of hands, secret ballot or a mixture.

"Please check your facts before issuing such statements"



What follows are the law’s two main antidotes to the secret ballot disease starting to afflict certain concealment-happy New Mills town councillors:

Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12:

Paragraph 13 (1):

Unless otherwise provided by the council’s standing orders the manner of voting at meetings of a parish council shall be by show of hands.

Paragraph 13 (2):

On the requisition of any member of the council the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each member present and voting gave his vote for or against that question.



And no, the above statute was not located through Google.

Google is more suitable for finding out about Justin Bieber's latest car crash or Wayne Rooney having to sleep on the couch or theories of covert baby ID implants in areas of high immigration or Molly King's secret intention to extend the Curse of Strictly for at least one more series so far as a married male participant is concerned.

Instead of simply being on Google, the above statute governing the voting at town council meetings is available for anybody to view online at the government's official UK Statute Law Database.


14 August 2017

The Financial Dimension of Running A Local Heritage and Information Centre




The New Mills Heritage and Information Centre (NMHIC) has a new up-to-date financial statement. This was presented to town councillors at a recent meeting.  HPT obtained a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.

NMHIC's accounting year ends on 31 March every year.   The new financial statement analyses the Centre's Income and Expenditure for the last three financial years.  All persons interested in public life and finances in New Mills should read this statement.

The figures in the statement are very clear, well analysed and well-laid out.

The aggregate net loss to council taxpayers for the three-year period ending on 31 March 2017 is £41,932.

This is made up of the following yearly losses:

2014-15:  £13,276

2015-16:  £12,431

2016-17:  £16,225

Several points arise from these financial statements, Esteemed HPT readers will no doubt add to these points:

1.  The New Mills Heritage and Information Centre cannot be justified on self-contained financial grounds.

It is up to the town council as a public body to decide every year whether the Centre's promotion of New Mills and publicity etc for the town and its local history justifies the annual financial costs to the public of running it.


2.  A lot of local people put in volunteer hours in the NMHIC shop and elsewhere to keep the Centre going.

Current NMTC chair Barry Bate in particular has put in a lot of unpaid, unacknowledged,  valuable work on the admin and funding side.  There are many others who commit their time and expertise.


3.  When the former town clerk was relieved of her duties a few years ago, her friends and allies on the council  and elsewhere vilified good councillors who had flagged up that the NMHIC was making significant financial losses.  This vilification was a part of the campaign to keep that town clerk in post.

These detailed financial statements now provide the documentary proof that on this subject the good councillors were right and their opponents were wrong.


4.  Former councillor David Lamb in particular is owed an apology.  His detailed investigations into this subject and others were a highly valuable public service.

It is shameful that Mr Lamb's extensive good work on behalf of the public of New Mills when he was a councillor resulted in his enemies failing to then co-opt him onto the town council.




-------------------------

NOTE  Readers' comments that criticise specific named individuals should not be made anonymously. 

Using your real name when sending in such a comment means firstly that your comment is more likely to be published and secondly gives your comment more weight to those who read it.

09 June 2017

Parliamentary Election: Bingham Out, Labour's Ruth George In















The 8 June 2017 General Election result is as follows:


LABOUR:      Ruth George   26,753 votes,  49.7%

CONSERVATIVE:  Andrew Bingham   24,431 votes,  45.4%

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT:   Charles Lawley   2,669 votes,  5%



The winning margin was 2,322 votes.

22 May 2017

Witness Report From the Hustings Event




Thanks to 'Amos Hart' - which presumably is a nom-de-plume - who has sent in the following eye-witness account of the recent general election hustings in New Mills that has been commented on under recent HPT articles:



"At its best it was like scenes from “Animal Farm” or “1984”; at its worst I was half expecting Stormtroopers to burst into the room at any moment.

"The questions were wide ranging and seemed very balanced. The compere seemed absolutely neutral and fair. As he put the questions to each candidate, the compere reminded them of their party’s policy on that subject with a quick ad verbatim quotation from their manifesto. This was a useful mind jogger for the audience.

"However, when it was the Labour candidates turn to answer, the compere was repeatedly subject to loud and intimidating abuse from the floor accusing him of political bias, and demanding that he stops doing it.

"The Conservative candidate (Andrew Bingham), and to a lesser extent the LibDem candidate (Charles Lawley), were subject to repeated mindless heckling and interruptions. The annoying part was that a lot of the debate itself was really absorbing and the interruptions were often during an interesting point. For instance one major interruption was when we were hearing from a candidate about the fight to save New Mills 6th form.

"Another, quite amusing interruption, was when a candidate mentioned that the Liberal William Beveridge had been the architect of the welfare state. This was immediately howled down as being 'nonsense' and 'rubbish'.

"The chief culprits included the lady with the teenage daughter and also a lady sat near the side (back) door. The latter was an absolute pain. I don’t know if anyone knows who she is.

"I was talking to someone afterwards who said they had asked one of the protagonists which part of the High Peak they were from, but said they did not appear to know!

"I have tried to keep the above as factual and balanced as possible.

"All in all, it was not a good night for democracy."



HPT Editor adds:  I'm sure all HPT readers will be very interested in this report.  All comments welcome, as usual.  Additional factual info from the event itself would be especially welcome



20 May 2017

Report on the 2017 New Mills Annual Parish Meeting






The meeting took place in the upstairs hall of the town hall on 16 May 2017.

This statutory meeting demonstrated once again that these annual get-togethers of a town’s electors – which by law must take place at least once in every year – are a good barometer of the issues that are of interest to the council taxpayers of the town.

The local government law governing these meetings states that if the chairman of the local town/parish council is present at the parish meeting then s/he must chair the meeting.*

Accordingly, town council chairman Barry Bate presided.  As always, he carried out this duty with civility and fairness.  Occasionally, the patience of a saint also seemed to be required.

The public meeting got heated occasionally, as these things are sometimes apt to do, but it was chaired with good nature and everyone was allowed to have their say at all times.  Such is democracy and a free society.

The following is a summary of some of the areas of interest that came up during the meeting.


The million-pound offer to the town council for a lease of Ollersett Fields

Representatives of New Mills Football Club recently made an offer to the town council that would have resulted in a million pounds coming into public funds.

Although this particular parish meeting was fairly well-attended, there was seemingly a no-show from the pro-Ollersett New Stadium supporters.  If any were there at the meeting, they stayed silent during the meeting.

It has to be said that the first heads-of-terms written offer from the project’s supporters to the town council was a major tactical blunder. This is the notorious document which offered payment of an annual peppercorn for the whole of the Ollersett land.

This offer took town councillors for fools, and poisoned and unfairly prejudiced the subsequent much more realistic offer of a million pounds for a lease of the land.

The next move of the football club, if any, is awaited.


Towards greening the town hall

Large savings have recently been made on the annual energy bills of the town hall.  Under previous town hall administrations the gas bills were allowed to run wildly out of control.  The town hall’s 40-year old inefficient giant boiler was being run willy-nilly for 24 hours a day and regular payments were being made for a redundant meter that was serving no purpose.

Following extensive investigations, British Gas has been dropped as a supplier to the town hall.
Although the town clerk and councillors are financially cautious about replacing the antiquated and inefficient boiler, a modern efficient boiler system would be cheaper to run than the old one.  It would also reduce the greenhouse gases emissions.

Energy technology has moved on enormously since the 1970s, when the current boiler was installed. Subject to making the detailed calculations, a modern replacement boiler would pay for itself quite quickly and then lead to many future annual cost savings after the payback period.


New Mills Heritage and Information Centre

Issues concerning New Mills Heritage and Information Centre took up a decent part of the meeting’s time and attention.

Concerns were raised by Linda Kendall and others that the original constitution and management committee arrangements Heritage Centre (‘HC’) have disappeared and/or fallen into disuse.

The charge is that those original arrangements have in effect been replaced by an unaccountable and ad-hoc administration of the HC.

To counter the above accusation, it emerged from the discussions at this public meeting that the original constitution of the Heritage Centre may no longer be workable.

The reason for this is that the HC constitution as originally written requires councillors from Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council to be on its management committee. This requirement was imposed because those two councils made financial contributions to the running of the Heritage Centre.

However, those two councils no longer make any regular financial payments to the Centre.  Therefore, it would now be unreasonable for their councillors to be imposed onto the management committee.

The figure given at this meeting for the annual costs of the Heritage Centre, before sales and any other income is taken into consideration, is about £30,000.

New Mills town council is now responsible for all of that liability, provided the decision is made to keep the HC open.  Grants etc from outside sources are being actively sought, in order to mitigate the town council’s substantial financial contribution.

Installing a new EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system is in progress.  This is basically a fancy till that tracks the items that come into stock and are sold out of stock.

On the issue of accounting processes at the Heritage Centre, David Lamb alerted the meeting to HC stock still being valued at retail price in the accounts.  If that is true - and Mr Lamb’s statements of independent fact usually are - then this erroneous method of valuing stock should be corrected immediately.

The accounting policy of every professional retailer in the UK is to value all stock at the lower of cost or current valuation.  Also, this method is known best practice in UK accountancy firms.

The town clerk stated that Heritage Centre formal management committee meetings should be in the public domain.  What reasonable person could argue against that requirement for transparency?  All expenses and risks are borne by New Mills town council, which means the council taxpayers of the town.

During the discussion about the Heritage Centre and its potential museum status, the town clerk stated she had been informally advised (by an unnamed person) that the town council “does not have the powers to run a museum.”

The town clerk seemed sceptical of this advice. HPT goes further: any such ‘advice’ sounds like nonsense on stilts.  That opinion is of course subject to any such museum facility being in the town; exhibits etc at the museum being related to the town; and the site being intended to promote the town and/or benefit its residents.

Furthermore, HPT hereby challenges anyone who offers that particular ‘advice’ regarding Heritage Centre museum status and the town council to now put up the written proof, or shut up.


New Mills Annual Festival

Cllr Barry Bate reported on the Festival, which is growing year on year.  Attendance and events are increasing.  The annual Festival is proving to be a very popular tourist attraction for the town.
So far so excellent.

This year, both Market Street and Union Road will be closed to vehicle traffic on the Festival’s big night.

Last year’s night-time lantern procession attracted 10,000 people to the town.  An unsympathetic bystander might observe that any night-time lantern procession in a small town is perhaps reminiscent of the scene in Young Frankenstein just after the townspeople have a town hall meeting where they resolve to chase down and capture the monster that has escaped.

Anyway, just so long as the New Mills version is safe, exciting for the kids, and helps to promote the town and its businesses.


Visit New Mills

A small group of attendees at this parish meeting was accused of seeking to unreasonably attack the Visit New Mills organisation wherever they can find an excuse.

If VNM is not transparent then it would deserve criticism.  If it makes mistakes then of course it deserves some criticism.  But any such criticism surely should be proportionate and aimed at being constructive and helpful.

Visit New Mills is staffed entirely by volunteers who put in a lot of work, creative thinking and effort to benefit the town.

What a poor, sterile, miserable state of affairs would exist in the town without the people who have set up Visit New Mills and subsequently organised and run its events.  Big vote of thanks to all of them.


Agendas and supporting papers for council meetings

Elector David Lamb pointed out a case where a recent determination by the town council had been made in error.

In the May 2017 council meeting, a town councillor objected to only getting the town council meetings agendas and supporting papers by email, and being refused paper copies.

This was met by a refusal or reluctance to send the paper copies to the councillor.

The law** governing this issue states that every councillor must give their explicit consent to receiving electronic copies of agendas etc (if the council has resolved to send out these documents electronically).

If that explicit consent is not given by the councillor then the traditional paper version of the agenda and supporting papers must be delivered to their usual home address before the legal cut-off date for receiving that meeting’s documents.

This opt-out exists because not all councillors have the facilities at home either to receive or sometimes to print off bulky documentation.


Co-options progress, and the council’s current shortage of members

New Mills town council has twelve seats.  Currently, there are only nine councillors, leaving it three members short of a full, proper council.

The quorum for this council is four.  Therefore, it currently only takes a few genuine absentees for a council meeting to be unable to make decisions.

How things have got to this sorry state has been extensively reported in earlier HPT articles.

It is now clear that one of the critical errors was town councillors allowing new co-opted councillors to not represent a specific ward, but rather to ‘just be general councillors’.

The local government system is designed for, and relies upon, every councillor in England representing one specific ward.

But at the main co-option meeting following the last local elections, New Mills town council rejected this legal requirement.  The town council and the local council taxpayers have been living with the fall-out from this blunder ever since.

The question of how to move forward - or at least the question of how to resolve the co-options dispute - is about to be placed in the hands of the solicitor of the National Association of Local Councils (‘NALC’).

When the solicitor’s written response is received in the next few weeks, will there finally be resolution to this protracted dispute?




References:

* Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Part III, paragraph 17 (1):

"In a parish having a separate parish council the chairman of the parish council, if present, shall preside at a parish meeting and if he is absent the vice-chairman (if any) shall, if present, preside."


**   The Local Government (Electronic Communications) (England) Order 2015 amends paragraph 10 of Schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972 to read:

"(b)  the reference to sending the summons to a member by an appropriate method is to—

(i)  leaving it at, or sending it by post to, the member’s usual place of residence, or

(ii)  where the member has given consent for the summons to be transmitted in electronic form to a particular electronic address (and consent has not been withdrawn), sending it in electronic form to that address."

16 May 2017

List Of Candidates In The 8 June 2017 General Election



In alphabetical order:

BINGHAM, Andrew Russell   (The Conservative Party Candidate)

GEORGE, Ruth Stephanie Nicole  (Labour Party)

LAWLEY, Charles Edward  (Liberal Democrat)

--------------------------------

There are no nutty candidates on the ballot paper this time around. Election entities like The Monster Raving Loony Party (Official); Nick The Flying Brick etc.  Lord Buckethead of the Gremloid Party is sadly missed.

Of more seriousness is the fact that the Greens and UKIP are not putting up candidates here. Nationwide, those two parties are targeting their limited resources this time around.

The consequence in High Peak is that the centre ground is abandoned in favour of one candidate.

The "progressive" vote is likely to be split between Labour and Liberal Democrats.  This could hand victory to the Conservatives in this constituency.  It also benefits the Conservative that votes will not be peeled off by UKIP this time around.

The Conservatives' national election strategists have not yet pushed into the wider public limelight Jeremy Corbyn's virulently anti-NATO statements, his associations with enemies of democracy, terrorists, murderous anti-LGBT entities and so on.  Examples are his vocal support for IRA, Hezbollah, Hamas.

It will be interesting to see how prominent Jeremy Corbyn features on the Labour candidate's election leaflets.


14 May 2017

Democracy and Transparency in Action: 2017 New Mills Annual Town Meeting






The following timely reminder has been received as a comment to the bottom of an article.  Here it is given wider publicity:

"According to the Councils website it says that the Annual Parish Meeting is to be held at 7.30 on Monday 15th May and that the last thing is to consider any Parish matters that may be brought forward by any Town Councillor OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTORS.

"Which I think means that anybody can ask them questions so perhaps we need lots of the club's supporters to go along and ask them about why they wouldn't let us move to Ollersett and why the turned down the million ponds and see if we can get them to change their minds."




Information note by HPT Editor:

Every parish in England must by law hold a public town meeting in May of every year.

It is NOT a council meeting; it is a meeting held by and for the electors and council tax-payers of the town.

Decisions and votes in the meeting are not binding on the town council but these meetings are very useful for raising matters of public interest or public concern.

This year's meeting will take place in the Public Hall of New Mills.  This is the 'top floor' of the town hall.  Access is either from the front car park (far right-hand door of the town hall then up the stairs) or there is a ground level access to the rear of the town hall.

05 May 2017

4 May 2017 Local Election Result

The result of the Derbyshire County Council election in the New Mills and Hayfield division is:

Beth Atkins  Liberal Democrat  1,889

Mike Daw  Green 177

Samantha Flower  Conservative  833

Dave Gates  Labour  1,312


LibDem Beth Atkins has an increased majority over Labour of 577.  Congratulations to the winning candidate.


Overall, the County Council has passed to Conservative control from Labour.


07 April 2017

The Unlawful Secrecy of Hayfield Parish Council Where Co-options Of New Councillors Are Concerned



Hayfield Parish Council office, together with area fraudulently claimed to be the local 'village green'


The national transparency movement does not seem to have reached Hayfield, a village in the High Peak.

Reports reach High Peak Transparency that Hayfield's Parish Council believes it is above the law.

The reason that statement can be made is that the parish council voted to remove the public from the recent council meeting at which a new parish councillor was to be selected.

The members of the public present were foolish enough to follow the unlawful order given to them by the Chair of the parish council meeting, and left the council meeting when told to do so.

A widely circulated email sent out by the parish clerk discussing this subject after the above meeting has now been forwarded to HPT by one of the Hayfield councillors.

The email makes interesting reading, including the glaring false statement / error / weaselly attempt at covering of backsides in the fourth paragraph:


Dear *****

Thanks for your email and your comments and concerns which have been noted.

Last night's meeting agreed to move the co-option into private simply because it was felt inappropriate to discuss the relevant attributes of candidates for co-option in public, and also because there was a precedent of Hayfield Parish Council holding previous recent co-options in private.

I am not in a position to comment on the opinions expressed on High Peak Transparency as it is simply a blog run by a private individual.  Our reference authority is DALC and I have had a long conversation with them this morning about the correct and appropriate procedures for co-option. 

DALC tell me that it is inappropriate for us to co-opt in private and this should not have happened last night.  However they are also telling me that although it is inappropriate it is not illegal and the decision made last night is valid and should stand.

We will now work with DALC to adopt an appropriate co-option procedure which we will have in place as soon as is practicable.  This new procedure will be followed in any future co-options.

I hope this addresses your concerns.

Keith Bevins
Clerk/RFO to Hayfield Parish Council


27 March 2017

Political Football Scores: A Point Of View From An Ollersett Resident




The following has been received as a comment to add to the bottom of the previous article 'Million Pound Cat Among the Nimby Pigeons'.

The name provided with the comment was 'Ollersett Resident'.  However, the text is pretty long for a 'comment box' and contains detailed comment and argument, so it's being given its own article rather just just being added as a comment box.

Editor's Note:  the headline to the previous article 'Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons' was solely the creation of  HPT Editor.

We are happy to make it 100% clear that the headline was not the idea or suggestion of Colin Ramwell nor of anybody connected with the football club.

The headline to this article is likewise solely HPT's creation 

-----------------------------------

"Perhaps I might suggest that, if Mr Ramwell is so keen to: 'build bridges, not burn them' as his article suggest, a good place to start might be by not referring to local residents with valid concerns about a proposed major development on their doorstep as 'nimbie's' (especially in the title of the article). Again,, just a thought..

"Having attended most of the NMTC meetings where this proposal was discussed, including the meeting on the 13th February when the council voted unanimously by 6 to 0 (not '3.5' as Mr Ramwell suggests) to reject the proposal, I do feel able to offer some observations about that process. It’s also worth considering that AFC New Mills and Morbaine were in negotiation with DCC regarding the proposed development of Quarry Bank before the council threw it out. If this is such a good outcome for the town, perhaps someone could enlighten me as to why that initial proposal was rejected?

"I unashamedly mark myself as one of the 'pre-arranged' group of local residents who attended the meeting. That so many local residents felt compelled to go out of their way to attend a Town Hall meeting on a Monday night in February (after a 10 hour shift and straight after putting the kids to bed in my case) should tell you about the strength of feeling against this project and also, the significant annoyance that local residents had to find out about this proposal by word of mouth, rather than by any consultation from the football club. However, the tone and content of articles such as this are instructive of the amount of care and considerations that the football club have for local residents.

"During the meeting, NMTC quite rightly deduced that they were, in effect being asked to consider 2 proposals: the proposal to develop Ollersett Field, and the development of the Church Lane site (where Morbaine’s financial interest lies).

"Given that the former cannot proceed without the latter (there wouldn’t be any money), I find it more than slightly confusing that neither the football club of the developer have expanded on what is proposed for the Church Lane site. Is it a supermarket? is it housing? Is it both? If so, what are the implications to the rest of the town? These are the things that were considered at the meeting(s).

"£1,000,000 might sound like a lot of money on paper, however if it leads to a retail development that puts any number of local firms out of business, what are the financial effects on the town? The council rightly acknowledges that it has a duty to the 10,000 or so residents of the town, not a few hundred people directly associated with the local football club.

"Finally, if we can address myth that this proposal will somehow improve community sports facilities in the area. The definition of a ‘community’ resource is one which is freely available for use by the community. We have one of those; it’s called Ollersett Field (regularly and enthusiastically used by the local community, despite some comments on here). What this proposal does, is to transfer that community facility into private hands and make it available to them at certain times (subject to availability) on a hire basis for the private financial gain of the football club. This was confirmed to me when I spoke with Club Design to get more information (in the absence of any from the football club). I would therefore be grateful if you could make this distinction in future comment.

"Those of us who have followed this project for several months (and bothered to actually turn up and discuss it at meetings) were delighted that the council had the foresight to see through the private financial gains of a local sports clubs and a private developer and look at the wider interests of the townspeople of New Mills, the vast, vast majority of which have no interest whatsoever in the local football club.

A resident of Watburn Rd, New Mills."



23 March 2017

Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons





Note:  the headline to this article 'Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons' is solely the creation of  HPT Editor.

We are happy to make it 100% clear that the headline was not the idea or suggestion of Colin Ramwell nor of anybody connected with the football club.

---------------------------

The following communication has been received by email from Colin Ramwell at 8:43 on 22 March 2017, and it is printed here verbatim:

"Hello again HPT community: Let’s get something straight about this myth of the peppercorn rent and financial discussions.

"As I have previously stated I truly believe we have not been properly heard, neither the clubs or developer has ever been asked to formally put forward financial terms for the proposal. What I would expect is that at least a decision would be looked at and appraised by professional agents/solicitors before it was put to a full council for a decision, not on the basis of two farcical meetings the EGM (which only 3.5 Cllrs bothered to turn up for) and the pre-organised assembly of some local Ollersett people with no personal invite to the clubs or developer that a decision would be made that evening (Feb 13th meeting)

"The reality of the situation was that at no time have we put any financial offer to NMTC. The idea always was and always has been for the Council to indicate a willingness to discuss the proposal seriously when we would have then discussed detailed terms with the councils legal people.

"I can reveal the offer the developer would be prepared to make to the council is the sum of £1,000,000.00 as a premium to enter a long term ground lease and in addition the club would then pay an annual rent of £800.00. (perhaps this is where the peppercorn rent thing came from) – however £1 million is hardly peppercorn

"I have spoken with the developer and he is happy for me to reveal this proposal, the council have this offer in writing.

"The responsibility for the maintenance of the facility would totally lie with the club, also the club would guarantee the use of the facility to the Junior FC and for wider community to use as previously discussed.

"The club would employ someone to run this facility.

"To all other anonymous HPT contributors who continue to say the club is in “massive debt” all are very welcome to come a see me or any other AFC committee members and take a look at our accounts to dispel this myth. It’s true the club does run to a very rigid budget, like very many similar clubs and societies across the UK money is tight.

"As I say come and meet me at the club, I would be delighted to talk and discuss - we want to build bridges not burn them.

"I would ask the council to reconsider and have a public consultation – where everyone will be properly heard and if the decision remains the same then so be it, we all move on - I don’t mind losing so long as the game is played fairly.

From Colin Ramwell – Chair NM Juniors and Vice Chair NM AFC"

17 March 2017

Speech to March 2017 New Mills town council meeting by Colin Ramwell


Church Lane Pitch


Here is the speech that Colin Ramwell gave in the public speaking section before the New Mills town council meeting on 13 March 2017:


"At no time did Morbaine formally present any financial proposals to the Council so talk of peppercorn rents only were misleading.  A fair rent would have been proposed and with an understanding that the Council was seriously considering the offer a full financial plan would have been submitted.

"We were not treated reasonably especially at the last meeting.  Considering the importance of the proposal we were given no advanced personal notice that we were on the agenda that night nor that any “final” decision might be made.

"On the other hand the room was surprisingly full of objectors who, as neighbours to the files were biased in their views.

"Much emphasis seemed to have been put on the fact that this was all about the developer and his profit.  The benefits to the Community, the Clubs and the School of the new facilities was hardly considered.

"Since the meeting the Club has received much support from the Community disappointed at the decision made by the Council.

"Ironically the Council has a duty to look after the Field for the Community but is clearly not fulfilling this duty and this proposal would have taken this liability from them.

"We need to be re-heard and it would help to meet a Council representative say a Solicitor to explain in depth the whole proposal.

"The peppercorn rent is a myth.  No such offer was made.  Market rates would apply."

--------------------------------

The above are Colin Ramwell's words, published here so that a wider audience can see them.

There were several excellent and impassioned speeches from other people at the council meeting on the same subject of the urgent need for good football facilities for the junior, female, and wanabe footy players of the town.

If anyone wants to send in the text of their speech it will be published verbatim here, to give it wider publicity than just the town hall council chamber.

HPT


14 March 2017

December 2016 Co-option Policy Resolution Invalid. Plus, Method of Voting On Co-options





Authoritative NALC formal advice letter

A NALC (the National Association of Local Councils) formal advice letter has been received by New Mills Town Council on the subject of a "co-option policy" that was sprung without notice on the December 2016 town council meeting.

HPT obtained a copy of the advice letter under the Freedom of Information Act.  Here is the key sentence, which comes at the end of the letter written by a NALC solicitor:

"Accordingly, I think that the co-option resolution is invalid.  A new motion will be needed to adopt the co-option policy."


The public interest:  council co-options must be done in public

This December 2016 co-option policy - which now looks like it has failed - is the one that contains two major no-nos for supporters of transparency in local government:

Firstly, it proposed that co-options of new councillors should be done is secret, i.e. in Part 2 of a council meeting with the public excluded from the meeting.

Readers of recent articles on HPT on this subject will know why any such proposal would be unlawful.

The public has the legal right to be present at all meetings of councils. The very limited circumstances in which a council can exclude the public for a specific agenda item in a meeting do not include co-opting of new members onto the council.


The law:  method of voting during council meetings

Secondly, and this bad idea has not yet been aired or properly publicised, the December 2016 co-option policy proposed that voting by councillors for co-options should be by secret ballot.

Here is why that notion would raise major problems if it were attempted:

As always, let us go back to first principles: What does the law say on this subject?  The method of voting in council meetings is specified by law.  Paragraph 13 of Schedule 12 of the local Government Act 1972:

13 (1)  Unless otherwise provided by council's standing orders the manner of voting at meetings of a parish council shall be by a show of hands.

13 (2)  On the requisition of any member of the council the voting on any question shall be recorded so as to show whether each member present and voting gave his vote for or against the question. 

So that settles it: this mad, anti-transparent idea in the December 2016 co-option policy of a secret ballot manner of voting would be unlawful.

Even if standing orders attempted to subvert the law that governs the manner of voting in council meetings, the legal right of all councillors to demand a named vote at any time sees off the 'secret ballot' idea.


The Seven Principles of Public Life as they apply to the method of voting used during council meetings

Councillors' codes of conduct, based on the Nolan Principles, would also directly conflict with any scheme purporting to let councillors make any council decision by secret ballot.

The two Principles concerned with this are:

4 - Accountability 

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this. 

5 - Openness 

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so. 

27 February 2017

The view from New Mills Football Club's Chairman, following recent town council decision about Ollersett proposals


The following is the verbatim text of a recent Buxton Advertiser article giving the point of view of New Mills FC chairman Ray Coverley on New Mills town council's recent decision re Ollersett proposals:




New Mills FC left stunned as council veto Ollersett Fields redevelopment


New Mills FC chairman Ray Coverley has expressed his dismay and frustration at the town council’s decision to veto a planned redevelopment of Ollersett Fields.

A new and exciting facility had been proposed for the site, which included 3G pitches and facilities for not only New Mills FC to use but also junior and girls teams from across the town. However, despite the pitches at Ollersett Fields currently being in a poor condition, New Mills Town Council decided at a meeting last week to turn down the proposals.

Coverley said: “The council say that the new facilities will have no real benefit to the community, only to New Mills FC itself, which is staggering really given it’s an entirely community-based proposal and designed to benefit everyone. “We’ve been putting the plans together for a long time now with developers Morbaine and this would have cost the council nothing given Morbaine would have organised all of the public consultations and so on, but we’ve not even been allowed to get to that stage.

“It’s been a very sudden end to quite a drawn out process and we’re desperately disappointed, as are our junior coaches and players as they currently don’t have anywhere suitable to play regularly. “It’s a huge setback. I could understand if consultations had taken place and there were suitable enough objections to it all, but it has been nipped in the bud before the plans had been made fully public.”

Morbaine had also put accompanying plans in place to develop the playing fields at Quarry Road, currently used by school teams but which are also in a poor condition.

Coverley added: “Everything we had planned was with a view to improving current facilities to provide a fantastic community resource and yet the council have, for some reason, not seen that and dismissed it out of hand.

“Everything was being financed and literally the only thing the council had to do was give us the OK to do it. We’ve had widespread support from across the town for what we wanted to do. “I’ve been involved with this club for 30 years and wanted this development to be my legacy so I’m very frustrated at the way this has happened.

“Both sites are going to rack and ruin and it’s such a huge waste when you consider both what could be put in place instead and just how many people will benefit. I can’t understand how the council believe the community won’t reap the rewards."



MARK DUFFY (TWITTER - @DUFFERSSPORT) 16:09Wednesday 22 February 2017

Read the article in situ at: http://www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk/sport/football/new-mills-fc-left-stunned-as-council-veto-ollersett-fields-redevelopment-1-8404173



Ollersett Fields
Ollersett  Field- "Going to rack and ruin" - Ray Coverley

24 February 2017

New Sporting Facilities Needed In New Mills: Contribution To The Debate From New Mills Juniors Football

A 6-1 win over Tintwistle


The following has been received from Colin Ramwell, who is connected with New Mills Juniors football.  It was received as a 'comment' below the previous article but is detailed enough to merit its standalone article as follows:


Hello HPT, I thought it may be worthwhile sending you the reasons New Mills Juniors (a separate club to New Mills AFC) are keen to back the AFC proposal for this new facility

New Mills Juniors are extremely disappointed that the council didn't even vote for a public consultation, we accept that some local residents to the site will have reservations but the much wider community of New Mills have again not been taken into consideration or indeed had an opportunity to have their say in what would be the biggest sporting facility the town has had since the building of the leisure centre in the 1970's.

I attended the council EGM for this project back in early November, in attendance where the junior and AFC football clubs along with the developer and ground design company - however only 3 councillors bothered to turn up! - I genuinely believe we have not been listened to

The facility would not just be for football, I know of interest from hockey and lacrosse teams, games not currently played in the area.

Also regarding the peppercorn rent, my understanding was to either buy the land outright (more than a few peppercorns I would imagine into the council coffers) or agree a long term lease at a market value rate.

I don't do anonymous

Thanks

Colin Ramwell - Chair New Mills Juniors


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New Mills Juniors – fully behind a new community sports 3G facility in New Mills.

New Mills Juniors was established over 40 years ago and is a well-known FA standard charted junior football club in the High Peak and South Manchester area – we accommodate football for the age groups U8’s through to U18’s.

• We have around 170 FA registered players, we are the largest (playing) sporting club in the area, but our facilities are very poor.

• We only have 2 pitches for 10 teams to play football on. The REC on Wirksmoor Rd and the proposed site of the new 3G facility at Ollersett Fields on Watburn Rd.

• The REC on Wirkmoor Rd is OK albeit in need of some drainage and resurfacing work in parts.

• The Ollersett fields site is in the main not fit for purpose as it is nearly always waterlogged as it has no working drainage – I estimate we have played less than 10 games ONLY on Ollersett over the last 2 seasons – from October to March last year we play NO games on the pitch – The New Mills council parks team will collaborate this as they can’t get their equipment onto the pitch as the mower sinks in the mud.

•  For our teams on Ollersett, we tend to have to play many of our home games away due to the pitch being unfit - lots of unnecessary travel for our players and parents.

• Our U8’s and 9‘s teams have to play all their games in Glossop (3G pitch) due to lack of a pitch to play on in New Mills, a round trip for players and parent of around 20 miles each and every weekend.

• We have had in the past a successful girls team but we have no changing facilities so we are reluctant to set another one up due to this fact – we also would not meet the standard charter FA criteria for a girl’s football team.

• We cannot grow as a club and offer more children to play football due to the lack of facilities.

• We lose New Mills players to other towns due to the poor facilities New Mills has – Whaley Bridge, Glossop, High Lane etc. all have 3G facilities

New Mills Juniors represents the town in the Metro League playing teams from all around South Manchester – from Macclesfield through Stockport to Glossop and Hyde most towns have better facilities for their children to play than we have in New Mills – our footballing facilities are a very poor advert for the town to visitors.

New Mills Juniors are fully behind working with New Mills AFC. Both clubs have forged strong links together over the last few years and are in total agreement to move forward with a Community Footballing/Educational/Multisport facility the town can be proud of.



Editor's Note for non-football types: '3G' means Third Generation artificial pitch.  Goodbye to the burnt knees and unpredictable ball-bounce of the first generation of artificial pitches!

23 February 2017

New Mills Town Council turns down generous offer of one peppercorn in return for about four acres of land


Fig 1: Some peppercorns (actual size)


The following has been received as a reader's comment, from 'Watburn Road Resident'.  It deserves a stand-alone article, so that comments on this subject can all be all kept together rather than be scattered under other unrelated articles:


"Last Monday New Mills Town Council spent a lot of time discussing whether to lease Ollersett Fields at a peppercorn rent to allow New mills Football club to develop on the site financed by a property company on a long lease.

"Another article supplied by the club is in the paper this week. What is not mentioned is that this development will lead to the present site in Church Lane being developed into housing or retail in an overcrowded area already.

"The answers from the property company were unclear and lacked details.

"All councillors expressed concern and voted unanimously to keep the status quo.

"The football club has put their spin on this.For once the council considered all the issues and accepted their responsibility to the whole community and surrounding properties and the discussion was transparent and free from acrimony."




If either the football club or Morbain would like to send in their point of view on this matter either in Microsoft Word or as an email then it will be published verbatim on HPT.  Send to:  highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com