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Some thoughts on Wednesday evening's Poll meeting

(April 03, 2010)
Now that the air has cleared after the historic meeting on Wednesday night Steve Dancey reviews the occasion.

When it was announced that the meeting to discuss the parish poll proposal would take place at 6pm on a Wednesday I was more than a little put out as for many working age people this is a very difficult time, especially if they have young children
But despite the awkwardness of the hour and the inclement weather - there was a snow shower during the meeting - it attracted good support and the fact that 80 people were in attendance was great. I doubt whether any of our political candidates at the forthcoming general election will be able to muster as many.
That danger always was that the meeting would fly off at tangents as there are so many issues connected with the proposal for the Assembly Rooms.
It wasn't helped that the chairman was happy to almost filibuster and answer as many points in some detail about issues that were not identified for discussion by those who petitioned the meeting.
It felt as if you asked the mayor about the price of grain in the War of Spanish Succession he would have had a view and would be willing to provide a lengthy explanation.
Some points of concern about the poll were raised.
The most potent is that we have not allowed sufficient time for the council to prepare its case and glean more detailed information about its proposal.
Although there is some weight to this argument it is more than counterbalanced by the fact that even when the tenders are in the huge losses the Assembly Rooms will make through high running costs and declining income every year mean its figures will still be guesstimates.
So the impact on the town council's revenue account over the next 25 years will still be very unclear even if you have a more up to date idea of the capital costs.
Far better to kill the idea dead without wasting any more money on the plans.
Especially so if you believe, like me, that the true focus of attention and any money, needs to be on the decaying town hall building in the heart of the town.

However, the greatest revelation on the night was the admission that our town councillors are prepared to borrow all this money and put the town in hock for years to come because they didn't really like sitting in the man hall of Dewey House for their meetings.
Local resident Pat Coleman asked the mayor why this very sensible option hadn't been continued.

The minutes say this had been tried but there had been complaints about the sound as the acoustic were not good - and they didn't like it.
Well, I'm very sorry as I know the town councillors like us to hear their nice rounded vowels but they really need to look at this suggestion as it is the obvious answer. Of course it is a grade II listed building but installing a few chairs and a mobile PA system would provide far better value for money than the megaloan to do up the clapped out 1960s  Assembly Rooms and could be accommodated within the planning rules.
Councillors also can't park close to Dewey House or the Town Hall !!! My God what a lazy lot - perhaps we should have some councillors who don't mind walking 150 yards and then they might not mind bothering to do a few other things.

We also heard from the wife of a councillor who said we elected councillors to use their judgement to represent us. Yes, but not usually for six years and when they do something unpopular a parish poll is a legitimate and legal way of clipping their wings. In any case what is wrong with people power and asking people what they thing as we are the ones who usually have to pay?
Referendums are okay in my book and only held in disdain by our patrician rulers and Sir Humphreys* of this world who feel they get in the way.

Finally there have been suggestions that I have only done this for personal political gain. No a jot - I'm not a member of a political party and as a life-long resident of this town  and surround villages for almost 52 years I care and I simply want what I feel is best for the town. That means restoring civic pride and central to that aim is the need to do something about the Town Hall.
If they sort that issue out I'll gladly get back in my box but until that happens the powers that be can expect a lively time.

* This is of course a reference to Yes Minister.

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