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Public will have an officially organised vote on Assembly rooms

(March 31, 2010)
WEDNESDAY evening's parish meeting decided to back visionforwarminster so a parish poll will now be held on the question of the town council moving to the Assembly Rooms.
The vote was put and 50 people voted in favour of having a poll and 10 were against - a number of them councillors.
The poll will take place in April and will be organised by Wiltshire Council although no poll cards will be issued. The polling station will be the Assembly Hall and will be open from 5pm until 9pm on the day of the poll.

VFW's Steve Dancey spoke to the gathering after the mayor cllr Tony Nicklin introduced the meeting.

Steve's speech is as follows: 'Thank you chairman - we have heard as I expected, we would, an uncompromising statement of the town council's position.
The issue is now out in the open and for judgement in the court of public opinion. I hope you the public will be the judges of the facts of the matter and be able to return your verdict by way of an official parish poll.

The council has said that nothing has been decided. I would beg to differ.
Like in many court cases the matter we have to look at is one of intent.
Before visionforWarminster and others highlighted this matter was it the council's intention to run with this plan come what may. Of course it was.
Proving intent is usually a prosecution counsel's most difficult hurdle to overcome but you, the jury in the court of public opinion, are able to make reasonable inferences as to intent from past behaviour.
I'm talking about two separate matters here.
Firstly, the council decided to end bookings for this facility from 1 May - hardly something a body that hadn't made up its mind would have done.
Secondly, they admitted it in the brochure everyone received with their council tax demand.
In this official document it says, and I quote, 'the largest project will be to refurbish the Assembly Rooms' and the 'halls for hire will be reconfigured' for hire. Not may be but will be.

I can assure you that such evidence would be sufficient in a criminal court to secure in the jury's mind that the council's intention was, beyond reasonable doubt, to do this work.

I have no qualms whatsoever in calling for a parish poll.

Next we move on to the cost - easily over One million. 1.2 or 1.3 and when you add in the annual loss of 60K a year this hall entails you are looking at a cost to the town of more than three million pounds over the next 25 years - for what? This ugly, unloved shack which has the worst acoustics of any hall of its kind in the south of England.

What makes the matter worse it the lack of a business plan or the complete lack of clarity as to what the unique selling point of this building should be if it is to succeed in the future.

The Warminster public needs to be consulted in a realistic way and that is provided via a parish poll. The exercise conducted at the Mayor's Day was not statistically valid as it used what social statisticians called a 'self-selecting sample'. Those questioned may well have been from the town council's payroll vote drawn from organisations that receive cash from the council and be more favourably disposed to the council than the public at large.
It was also small in number and heavily biased towards the older age group when it is the younger age group who will have to pay this bill over the next quarter of a century.
We have a vision for this building in visionforwarminster and also for our town hall.

But the question must be limited to what is on the table.
I therefore suggest that the question should be 'DO YOU AGREE WITH THE TOWN COUNCIL'S IDEA of MOVING TO THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS. YES or NO
Such a question offers the town council something. If you win the vote you have a mandate to continue but if you lose and do not carry the public then you must accept the democratic position otherwise lose the moral authority and electoral legitimacy of your position of councillors.'

Paul Macdonald later spoke unscripted to warm applause.
He likened the spending to throwing money at a second hand car after pointing out that the councillor who proposed going for the 'megaloan' had to be corrected at the meeting about what it was going to be spent on.
"There would be no reaction if the money was going to bring something new to benefit the town," he said.
"A new youth centre or a community centre for the elderly as we have argued for."

Mr Nicklin, speaking as mayor with the chain of office around his neck, said that the council will abide by the view of the majority.

So it is 'game on' - time for some people power and real democracy in action.

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