24 November 2015

Casual Vacancy at New Mills Town Council

We understand that Josh Gaskell has resigned from New Mills Town Council.

Assuming this information given to HPT is not a hoax, the vacancy will be notified to the public by the returning officer at High Peak Borough Council.

If ten electors in Mr Gaskell's ward demand a by-election then one will be held.  If ten electors do not come forward then New Mills Town Council will go through a co-option process.

Seasonal note:  the bickering over the last NMTC co-options has not even ceased, and they were in the summer.  In four weeks' time it will be the winter solstice.

To quote Bob Cratchit, who so far as is known has not stood for New Mills town council, "a Merry Christmas to you, sir!"

12 November 2015

Is this two bald men fighting over a comb?

As a public service, the following two comments, anonymously received by this website in the last 24 hours, are published.

The reason for publication is for local council taxpayers to see the extent and the costs of the internal strife currently within New Mills Town Council:

"The Chair does NOT take advice from the Clerk! If he did the Council would not be in the mess that it is in especially regarding the cooption process and all the nonsense that has occurred since.  He may be ok running visit new mills but he's shown, by his actions or inactions, that he is no good running the Council."

"The clerk is constantly undermining the chairs authority, she apparently didn't even tell him she had summonsed David lamb as a councillor, which he is not, to last Mondays meeting, she should be working with the chair not against him. It maybe time for her to go for the good of new mills. She has no loyalty or connection to the town."

There is no need for this problem.  But it is being continued ad nauseum by two factions on the council, neither of whom seem prepared to give way on this matter.

If neither the Chair nor the town clerk/proper officer is going to leave the council, or is going to give way on this specific issue, then is there any other practical solution than now obtaining the expert opinion of paid legal counsel (barrister) specialising in town/parish council law?

The issue is:  Is David Lamb a member of New Mills Town Council?

Both sides should put their own arguments independently, in writing, to the same specialist counsel. The town council's solicitor would find the appropriate barrister to give the independent opinion.

If possible, both sides should agree in advance to abide by counsel's opinion.  Even if that is not possible, then the counsel's expert opinion should still be sought by the council.

If the losing side is not prepared to give way after receiving counsel's expert opinion, then  they would lose all credibility. The winning side would then be able to go to the court, if the losing side is not prepared to give way, and seek an Order that Mr David Lamb is or isn't a councillor (according to which of those two positions has expert counsel's opinion on its side).

Alternatively, a new simple co-option (or election) of one councillor should now take place, with the council ward specified in advance.  The mechanism of this would need the approval of High Peak Borough Council.

It has already been six months since the local elections that gave rise to this situation.

How much longer is this paralysis of New Mills Town Council's public business - expensively paid for by the local council taxpayers - going to go on?

In this situation, there are costs of doing nothing.

10 November 2015

The Business of New Mills Town Council

New Mills Town Council ('NMTC') takes in over £300,000 of public money every year.  The editor of High Peak Transparency is just one of thousands of council tax payers in the town - in HPT Ed's case to the tune of almost £1,000 this year.  Many people who read this site are in the same position, sometimes with higher council tax bills.  All the town councillors bar one are in the same position.

Having placed the above central facts on the record, what follows is a neutral description of what happened at last night's duly convened New Mills town council meeting.

Councillors, public, and council officers assembled in the council chamber in time for the 7:30 pm meeting start time.

Cllr Sean Whewell, the chair of the council, opened the meeting by welcoming councillors and the public.

David Lamb interrupted as soon as Cllr Whewell started speaking.  Cllr Whewell told him to wait until the public participation section.  This is when councillors and the public can speak on all matters that are both on and not on that meeting's agenda.

The public participation section is always very near the start of every council meeting.

David Lamb would not wait.  He interrupted the chairman and said that the meeting was illegal.  The basis of this assertion was not stated, or at least was not heard by this observer.

A slightly worrying fact here is that the copy of Arnold Baker on Local Council Administration with David Lamb's papers was an out of date edition.  Only time will tell if this proves to be relevant to whatever the issue was.

The council meeting being unable to continue in an orderly fashion, the chair suspended the meeting.

Sean Whewell and David Lamb then went outside the chamber.  The council's town clerk/proper officer went with them. David Lamb came back and asked for witnesses to what was happening, and Cllr Rebecca Harman and a member of the public went out in response to this.  Cllr Barry Bate followed later.

At 7:57 pm the town clerk/proper officer came back in, collected her papers, and went out again.

At 8;07, Cllr Sara Atherton said, in broad terms, that there is a dispute here and it needs resolving. What is happening is both impractical and is disrespectful to the public.

HPT Ed adds that a large part of the council's business is effectively paralysed.

At 8:11 Cllr Whewell came in the chamber and stated that David Lamb has left the building.  The town clerk/proper officer has left the building.  There is a council meeting scheduled for 17 November, and this agenda will be carried over.

At 8:20, after various informal interactions between the public and councillors, the get-together was over.

Did I mention that New Mills Town Council ('NMTC') takes in over £300,000 of public money every year?


Note re comments:  Anonymous comments that are abusive are unlikely to be published.  Anonymous comments that make dubious assertions are unlikely to be published.  The best way to guarantee getting a point published is to provide your name.  Either put it on the comment itself, or make the comment anonymously while emailing HPT letting us know who is making that particular comment. If you ask for anonymity then your name will not be published.

email address:  highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com

02 November 2015

Courthouse dispute - High Peak Borough Council's viewpoint

The following is the official High Peak Borough Council statement about the government's insane idea of closing the High Peak's only magistrates' courthouse.  It is on the HPBC website:

In a formal response to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service consultation on future provision in England and Wales, the Council said it did not support the proposal to transfer the services to Chesterfield and felt that flaws in the consultation process left it open to potential legal challenge if a decision was made to close the Buxton facility.

Councillor Emily Thrane, Executive Councillor for Corporate Services, said: “This Council fully understands the pressures on publicly-funded bodies to make the most efficient use of their resources, to adopt modern technologies and the respond to citizens’ expectations but we cannot support the proposed closure of the Buxton court for several reasons.

“The assessment of the court premises is inaccurate and there is no evidence that the geography and climate of the High Peak or its transport arrangements have been properly taken into account. This has resulted in disproportionate weight being accorded to the unsuitability of the premises and inadequate weight to the unsuitability of the transport arrangements to Chesterfield.”

Magistrates have estimated that around two-thirds of the court’s business comes from Glossop, New Mills and Hayfield following the closure of the court in Glossop some years ago.

Councillor Alan Barrow, Chair of the Council’s Corporate Select Committee, added: “There is only one option presented if the court in Buxton closes – transfer to Chesterfield – and the only information on travelling times is for journeys from Buxton. This ignores the possible impact on the significant communities in the North West of the High Peak.

“Travel information in the consultation document states that 73% of journeys by public transport would take over two hours. Comparison with the data relating to other closure proposals shows these travelling times to be unusual and extreme but no attention has been drawn to this or the potential for this to act as disincentive to people attending court.”