If you are as tired of the shenanigans of Draycott Council as some people are, you’d best skip this particular post. It will only get you depressed.
It’s an update on some of the odd things the council is doing.
The meeting of the council on Monday (20th March) was remarkable: the clerk was so upset by an allegation from a councillor that she had to leave the room; one councillor narrowly escaped censure from his colleagues for his unexplained insinuations against them on social media; one councillor called another’s views “trashy”; and two councillors did not even seem to know sometimes what was actually going on!
Remarkable is one description of the meeting; bizarre is another.
One major issue was the allegations against the Chairman and the Clerk (a clerk is the person who acts as an independent secretary to the council). One councillor weighed in immediately the meeting started, saying that some sort of plagiarism (which is plain illegal actually) appeared to be in the clerk’s records of the previous meeting. This so upset the clerk, she had to leave the room to recover.
The next question, of why one councillor had decided to put insinuations against the clerk and the chairman (which they both found offensive) on Facebook, came up. This councillor – even though he was sitting in the room – did not respond, or try to explain the comments, but another councillor was in no doubt about them, and said such views were just “trashy, trashy”.
One poor councillor, who perhaps hadn’t read his agenda documents, said he didn’t at all know what the whole matter was about!
Meanwhile, the watching public were just … dumbstruck.
The Clerk, who was understandably knocked back by all this, has now decided as a result to do no work over & above her four paid hours per week.
In the past couple of months, the dislike some councillors have for each other has really surfaced – even leading to a formal allegation to the authorities that one councillor had seriously broken the councillors’ Code Of Conduct (though the allegation has since been rejected).
It is very hard to know what is going on; and why this war of words has broken out. It is certainly unbecoming, that’s for sure.
It might also explain why some electors preferred to chose a full election process (after a vacancy arose in January) rather than let this group choose a new councillor themselves.
You may remember that, in January, an extra, ‘closed’ meeting was held by the councillors – who did not publish to everyone what they were doing, as they should have done.
Well, we have applied to see the minutes of that meeting (at least, the bits we are not allowed to see) – but… no result so far.
Back in January, a councillor suddenly resigned from Draycott Council. The public still does not know why. Neither the councillor nor the council has explained. It may even be a personal matter, which is fine, but we still should know (surely?) what the general issue was.
We have asked the council to publish the resignation letter – but… no result so far.
You may wish to look away at this point.
If you have received your council tax demand in the last week, you’ll notice that the ‘precept’ from Draycott Parish Council has increased by 3.3%, double the rate of inflation at the time the council agreed it. (And that was before it was even known that there would be an election…).
In contrast, nearby Caverswall Council cut their council tax by 3%.
By law, larger authorities (such as SMDC for example) are obliged to hold a referendum for any increases above 2% – but parish councils, like Draycott, do not.
Usually with a large increase a council will come out to its electorate and explain why the increase is so large (they might have responsibilities for instance), but we have not had that from this council.
In general, Draycott PC has a poor record on council tax increases – in one year recently, it increased the tax by a whopping 25%.
In fact, in a survey conducted by BBC News Research last month, Draycott was in the top 16% (across the whole country!) for councils with the highest council-tax increases over the last three years.
One success for the residents is that, following a request from an elector at this last meeting, the council will, from now on, advertise the jobs that it wants done. Seems a small thing to ask – and lots of other parish councils already do it – but the promise has been a long time coming!
The council commissions a number of jobs around the parish and spends hundreds of pounds a year on them. However, rarely have they advertised these jobs, and often they don’t even get three quotes for a job.
The government got so fed up with small councils acting in this way without regard to how carefully public money should be spent that it introduced a ‘Transparency Code’ for small councils in 2015. Under this code, all councils should publish full details of any item of expenditure over £100. Let’s hope this happens in future.
One feels sorry for the current chairman of the council, who seems to be doing his best to act as a firm-but-fair peace-maker; and one feels even more for the clerk, as the strange allegations against her by her colleagues have still had no evidence put up to justify them.
However, we the public have a big opportunity to ask questions of councillors: when the Council has its Annual General Meeting, which is when it has to present all its reports for the year and its list of objectives for the coming year. It also has to take questions from its electorate about its conduct, its achievements (or lack of) and its financial affairs. The AGM is on Monday 8 May.
We wonder what Pat McLaughlin and Roger Leach, who are both standing in the Draycott Council by-election on April 6th, are thinking of it all… the one who is elected will have a big job on their hands.
In the meantime, the councillors are really not getting on with what they are supposed to do – making improvements for their district.
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