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Open Government plea falls on deaf ears

(March 05, 2015)

Warminster Town Council's policy on keeping the work of its most important working group solely available to its members was in disarray last night after repeated attempts by an Independent councillor to put supporting documents to the agenda of an open meeting in public view failed.

Only a few days after the local newspaper had exclusively published some details of the consultation document work that the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group chaired by former councillor and co-opted member Tony Nicklin councillors has done councillors were once again told that copies could not be made available to local residents.

"I repeatedly tried to make the point that as the meeting was open to the public and not in part two where confidential items are discussed the documents that support the agenda for the meeting should be on the public seats with that agenda," said Cllr. Paul Macdonald.

Paul spoke in favour of moving the consultation process forward as swiftly as possible gaining the support of the Mayor Cllr. Andrew Davis but when the mayor realised that seconding that proposal would mean immediate public access to the contents he changed his mind.

The Mayor Cllr. Andrew Davis withdrew his support calling on the town clerk Heather Abernathie as the 'chief officer' of the council to clarify the situation.

This did not appease Cllr. Macdonald who has decades of experience of local government and even the intervention of the chairman of the Town Development Committee Cllr. Jamie Cullen repeatedly did not sort the conflicting views out.

Paul then insisted that his view that the documents be made available immediately should be minuted.

The extraordinary meeting should not have been called according to the mayor and therefore there was no need for discussion trying to silence Cllr. Rob Fryer who had a list of concerns.

Cllr. Fryer tried to carry on but gave up his requests under pressure from the chairman, town clerk, the mayor and Cllr. Sue Fraser who chairs the Planning Committee.

"I heard speaking in the public participation start to the meeting the Chairman of the governors at Avenue School, residents of North Row, Folly Lane and Portway amongst others all make statements about a document that they had either not seen, or had only seen a few hours earlier after persistance," said Paul after the meeting.

"Once again they and more of the public there must have left deeply disappointed and concerned about what they saw at the actions of this council.

"This is once again not a good example of how our town council should work and as I said during the meeting this council is held in some disrepute.

"But I have to accept the so-called democratic will of the decision taken.

"The public have been told by other councillors last night that they will have to wait until one day after the next meeting of the full council on Monday week."

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