Right on the Money at WTC

To the Town Council Office! …on Monday evening for the first Wivenhoe Town Council meeting of the New Year.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot?

EVENING, Comrades!

But not a secret handshake in sight from any of our four Borough Cllrs, or the Essex County Council representative. Apologies were received from Cllrs Steve Ford, Cyril Liddy, Jon Manning and Julie Young.

Likewise for Cllrs Ian Endean and Brian Sinclair of WTC.

Which was all something of a shame as the theme for Monday evening was very much the political food chain and who gets to hand out the scraps left at the bottom of the pile.

BLAME 13 years of a Labour government; BLAME ideological attacks on the poor by the Tory led coalition. BLAME Colchester Borough Council passing the buck (but not bucks) and leaving it to the hyperlocal level to sort out the collapse of western capitalism.

Blimey.

But, first, what of the possible re-opening of a town HARD?

WTC heard a fine presentation from Ben Bradley of the WivGigs rowing club:

“Why does Wivenhoe need a public hard? Access to the river is currently limited to the few. Many people would use a public hard if it was available. Brightlingsea and Rowhedge both have access – why can’t we?

I accept that historically the old hard has been a political fighting point. We need to put a line through this and build a new facility.

Which site is the most realistic – Bethany Street or Cook’s? There has been local opposition at Bethany Street. Plus we need to ask who would pay for this facility at Cook’s. I propose a public / private partnership. It would need to be kept clean. A wooden slipway would work best. I would like to set up the Wivenhoe Hard Association.”

Madam Mayor stated:

“You have asked a lot of questions. I will answer what I can.”

A statement was then read out from Cllr Brian Sinclair, which broadly backed the wooden slipway raised above the water at the Cook’s site.

Telling however was:

“Wivenhoe Town Council does not have the manpower, or the finance for this.”

It all comes back to the wonga, Comrades.

Cllr Albey Stinson added:

“Providing that there is no expense and no future expense for Wivenhoe Town Council, I propose that you come back at a later date and we can support you.”

A vote was taken anyway, with ten in favour of supporting the Wivenhoe Hard Association, and one abstention.

Some slight confusion with the availability of the agenda sheet, but the item covering Points Raised by Members of the Public didn’t include a previously submitted question from Marika Footring.

No worries.

Marika was present and was able to put forward her question again:

“I request the publication as part of the Council’s meeting minutes of detailed financial reports or, if this is not possible, for the reasons for this to be minuted.”

Madam Mayor answered:

“This would create extra work for the Town Clerk. We can discuss at the next meeting if these can be included quarterly.”

Marika added:

“This would help residents to understand better the decisions taken by Wivenhoe Town Council.”

Reports that were available however included the written submissions from Cllrs Young, Liddy and Ford.

Cllr Young highlighted:

“I have been dealing with parental complaints about Cedric Coaches. An unannounced inspection took place recently. Cedric was found to be compliant. Improvements must be seen however.

I have been chasing the progress on the cycle path at the University. Work should soon commence on this.

Finally there is a meeting of the Wivenhoe Health Group this Friday.”

Yer man Bernie is IN, btw…

A joint submission from Cllrs Liddy and Ford included questions being asked about the Environment Agency’s policy on opening and closing the Colne barrier.

Madam Mayor commented that the Town Council has sent a wish list to all four Borough Cllrs regarding how to spend the £2k ward sweetener from CBC. No reply has yet been received, apparently.

Transport Correspondent Peter Kay then added in a little more background on Cedric:

“The Vehicle Operation and Standards Agency has a better remit on safety than routes. Cedric is not a cowboy.

Plus:

I have re-written my annual piece on price fares for travelling from Wivenhoe to Liverpool Street.”

A day return to Enfield Town still gets the wink and the nod, thank you very much.

Also:

“There has been a deterioration in the use of the 61 and 62 bus since the opening of the new bus station [that isn’t really a bus station]. Magdaeln Street bus depot is too cramped. Buses can’t be shunted – they aren’t on the correct route.”

Planning matters covered Cook’s and the plans for a restaurant by Lexden Development (no residential units included), the University Science Park (concern that a piece of land that was understood not to be for development now appears to be) and residential parking down at Cook’s.

The Town Council voted unanimously to suggest a policy to Essex County Council that no waiting spaces are allocated when the road is adopted. It was pointed out that most residents already own their own private parking space.

Sticking with the old shipyard and Cllr Kevin Read was able to update that Taylor Wimpey should be able to hand over the dingy park and the car park to WTC in “the next 4-6 weeks.”

A cursory glance down the agenda it seems that next up was the Report of the Finance and Administration Committee, which met on 9th January to set the precept for Wivenhoe.

Cllr Neil Lodge spoke:

“This has been a long and difficult time for us all. We have had to take into account the cuts from Colchester Borough Council. We are responsible for five parts of Cook’s. We have prepared a budget around this. We have made a recommendation for the new precept.”

All those in favour?

Passed unanimously.

Hang on – that’s it?

No debate or explanation was offered on how the decision was reached to add 37p per week for Wivenhoe residents in a Band D property. The December WTC meeting heard from Cllr Lodge that five possible scenarios had been planned. Members of the public had turned out to the January meeting to specifically hear how this decision was reached.

It was a blink and you’ll miss it 30-second moment.


…which also led to a ‘constructive debate’ and much finger pointing in the chamber once the meeting had closed.

Jabbety jab. Jabbety jab. Jabbety Jabbety Jabbety jab.

OUCH.

For the record: the Finance and Administration Committee has put a lot of work into setting the budget. The role of Full Council is to listen to the recommendations, and then where necessary, to ask questions.

No questions were asked, time to move on.

Nothing to see here.

It was all above board, but requests to attend the Finance and Administration Committee from members of the public were later refused.

How do we find out how these decisions are reached then?

To the credit of Cllr Lodge, he then offered up the private minutes for public viewing. But this was only after the public meeting had closed.

The Governance Toolkit for Parish & Town Councils [SEXY], as supported by the Society of Local Council Clerks, the Standards Board for England and the Local Government Association states [p.37]

“Reports should be circulated at the same time as the agenda and made available to the public, unless they include confidential matters that would justify the exclusion of the press and public at the meeting. This enhances the transparency of the council’s decision making and improves local knowledge of its activities.”

WTC is to be applauded in finally ditching the Best Value Committee last year, a move that was seen to create more transparency. Best Value was viewed by most as the real talking shop of WTC, a private meeting where policy is formulated. The plan was for Full Council to now include debate.

But not for Finance it seems.

When you find yourself sitting at the brutal end of the political food chain and being shat on from high (ish) up above, engaging [URGH] with residents on how you are handling the situation would help.

A newsletter is apparently being prepared.

As for fixing the roof while the sun shines?

Not quite, but the William Loveless Hall [where else?] has a few roof and boiler issues.

Back to true localism and Cllr Bob Needham encouraged residents to attend the Right to Bid meeting at the Town Council on 30th January at 11am.

The Diamond Jubilee Gardens Working Group reported that a decision is expected from Cory Environmental on Thursday regarding the re-submitted application.

And then a final notice that Brook Street will be closed for five days from 23rd January whilst BT goes about its business.

The ‘constructive debate’ continued in the boozer a little later.

Jabbety jab. Jabbety jab. Jabbety Jabbety Jabbety jab.

Chin chin, Comrades.

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