In a shocking trail of maladministration and ineptitude, the leader of Cotswold District Council sent an email to Cotswold Town & Parish Councils informing them that a report to be considered by Cabinet on Monday 6 December 2021* (update below), recommending that the cost of Parish and Town Council elections be charged to the local councils rather than being met by the District Council.
This follows hot on the heels of another maladministered decision made by Cllr Joe Harris which was called in by Overview & Scrutiny Committee earlier in the week, the first time in the history of CDC that a leader’s decision has been called-in.
Elected members were excluded from the correspondence, leaving them in the dark when their Town & Parish Councillors contacted them in rage and despair, most have already set their precepts for the coming year.
The Chief Executive Officer of CDC admitted to the omission: ‘…I do apologise, the intention was to circulate this to all ward members as well as the Town and Parish councils. I have asked that this is done asap.’
Parish Councillor Bella Amory responded: ‘I am concerned that this will unfairly rig the Democratic process, this proposal is distinctly oppressive.’
Cllr David Broad is concerned that people will be dissuaded from standing for Parish Councils owing to the costs incurred to the Parish, which is why the Conservative administration at CDC adopted these charges in 1996.
Cllr Amory adds: ‘As a Parish Council we were unaware of the proposed changes until an email on 2 December which leaves us no time to call a meeting to discuss this. Most Parishes meet monthly, three clear working days notice are needed for an Extraordinary Meeting, no Parish Council will have time to make a representation.'
Clearly outraged, the Chief Executive Officer of GAPTC (The Gloucestershire Association of Parish and Town Councils, an independent support, training and advisory body for councillors) has emailed Parish Councillors: ‘This kind of approach potentially damages working relations which have been developed over the years between our tiers of local government.’
‘You need to be raising any concerns with CDC about the lack of pre-consultation and not giving parish and town councils the opportunity to discuss this within their councils; nor has any representation been sought to contribute to the Cabinet paper.’
‘Any responses should include your district councillor.’
In a hasty back-down, Cllr Harris issued another missive admitting errors in the report with the figures, but still insisting the Council intend to proceed with the proposal, ‘Unfortunately, we hit send too quickly and the email that you received was a first draft and didn’t contain the context for the Cabinet report or indeed the correct figures. Please accept my apologies for this.’
The opposition Conservative Group calls upon the LibDems to stand by their pledge to be open and transparent and to stick to their pledge to work with Town & Parish Councils as promised at the recently held forums (which also excluded the elected members). Cllr Gina Blomefield adds: ‘Ward members are elected to be the main conduit representing CDC to Town and Parish Councils. It is not in anyone’s interest if we are left out of the loop. The Leader needs to realise how damaging this could be for our Parishes.’
Cllr Tony Berry adds: ‘The Conservative administration left CDC in credit with ample reserves. The current administration has wasted millions of pounds on decisions which have had no benefit to people who live in the Cotswolds. Pickpocketing tax payers like this just adds insult to injury.’
* The latest news is that the item is postponed until the January 2022 Cabinet meeting to give time for consultation. Really? Christmas is approaching and many of the smaller Parish Councils don't even meet in January.
Do the LibDems think Town & Parish Councils are turkeys who vote for Christmas?