'Sting in the tail' challenge to town council(May 22, 2021)
A forum hosted by Warminster town council was dominated by climate change, the ecology, and making local democracy vibrant with a blunt ‘screwed over’ warning which came as a sting in the tail that social media was keeping the public better informed than the local authorities.
The annual parish meeting was held this year at the civic centre on Friday evening with a handful of local residents joining councillors and invitees.
“I have been asked by several residents to raise the issue of the wilding of grass verges,” said Cllr. Paul Macdonald being the first to speak up for local residents.
Wiltshire council are expected to hand them over to the town soon.
“Absolutely yes,” said the Mayor Cllr. Steve Jefferies.
“We will look at which areas we can consider for re-wilding and consult with local residents.”
The annual running costs of the civic centre home to the town council was raised next and Cllr. Macdonald linked it to another issue he had been asked by a resident to raise.
“Now the library has heat pumps is the town council now considering their use?” he asked.
The mayor had done rough calculations.
“The civic centre is roughly 43 times the size of an average house. The cost should be £14,000 to £15,000. The £17,000 figure is actually not that far away.”
Boilers that are ‘limping along’ replacements are ‘in hand’.
Local resident Harriet James of Sustainable Warminster asked why the climate change action plan had not been produced.
“There is no action plan yet and we are 15 months on,” she argued.
“The next stage in our journey is to identify that plan,” the Mayor responded. “The council are awaiting the appointment of a climate change and community officer.”
The mayor promised that the Climate Change working group would start up again soon to meet the 2030 zero carbon target.
Cllr. John Syme made the point that there needs to be more tree planting. The mayor and a council officer responded that they are getting involved a national initiative.
“I will keep the pressure on,” added Cllr Syme.
Attention then turned to the public feeling they were not involved, uninformed and ignored.
Resident Malcolm Mellersh provoked a series of responses when he asked that there be more open forums and votes giving the ‘17,000 residents more say'.
The Mayor responded first explaining that there are many ways the town council give the public a way to take part and he used the opportunity to appeal for people to come forward and join in one of the working groups.
"Malcolm is right,” said newly elected Cllr. Stacie Allensby.
“People do not get the information they want. They would rather ask on Spotted in Warminster (town) than the council.”
Driving home the point with her direct and blunt assessment of the town council standing in the town Cllr. Allensby did not mince her words.
“People do not want to come to you,” she said addressing the two councillors at the top table.
“They believe you will screw them over. Sorry. They want you to come out and ask them.”
The microphone was returned to another Independent councillor.
“I think I would like to explain the point,” said Cllr. Macdonald.
“For example when we set the precept we ought to hold a referendum which in the old days was called a parish poll.
“Actually consult and have a vote like we would at a council election. All major spending decisions should go to a vote as well,” he added.
“Then thousands actually vote on the proposals. That is the point I think is actually made.”
*The meeting can be watched by clicking on the the Warminster town council website front page