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Town council's twisted and loaded questionnaire goes public

(September 14, 2010)
The biggest ever public consultation by Warminster Town Council is under way as 1,500 questionnaires about the 'Assembly Rooms question' are randomly dropping through letter boxes.
Just one side of A4 paper explaining the 'facts' joins the town clerk's covering letter.
In a move that it is claimed 'puts the cart before the horse' the council say they have already budgeted for the 'megaloan' which means 'there would not be an increase in the local council's budget'.
"I can see this raising more questions than it answers if this is an example of their attitude," says former councillor Paul Macdonald.
One question has already been answered by the electorate with an overwhelming 'no' vote at a parish poll which threw out the idea of moving the town council offices there.
(This weekend nearly 1,000 of the public also voted with their feet visiting the town hall which was open as part of the Civic Trust consultation process for that building). 
The council acting like slick salesmen say the £800,000 loan that would be repaid 'equates to a cost of 10p per week per electorate (sic)'.
"I am very disappointed at this tactic," says Paul Macdonald who was the first to sign the request for a parish poll.
"It is the council tax payer stumping up for this. Not all of the electorate pay council tax."
The bare bones are laid out. Just over £250,000 to carry out repairs and complying with modern regulations is needed or 'it may not be kept open to the public or for Council use'.
"After forty years of minimal works this had to be expected," say Paul. "The real question is after the work is done can the assembly rooms charges be set to see it well used again.
"There is no information on this."
Community Hub
The rest of the money would be spent on the town council's two sets of new ideas. Moving Dewey House staff and councillors and new uses.
"We proposed the community hub idea nearly two years ago as a way forward for this building," adds the co-author of
"The thing about this is that it means that as it will serve much more than Warminster our town alone should not pay for it.
"The town council have put the cart before the horse. Until they have had meaningful and detailed discussions with others they should not go-ahead."
Buried in the middle of the page the council reveal that there is a consultation document which means the person being asked for their opinion needs to make a trip to the town council offices to get the full picture.
The council have championed the idea that the parish poll result was organised a 'politically motivated few' despite and that a random sample is needed.
"Oh Dear!" adds Paul. "They then say that questionnaires can be requested from the town council offices. No longer random unless they have been trying those sweets advertised on the telly!"
"I can promise them that as they accuse me and the hundreds of others of being 'politically' rather than 'community motivated' I will not request one."

Steve Dancey added: ''What twisted logic is it that says 'nothing has been decided, yet it has been budgeted for?
''Perhaps the town council can tell us why it spent more than £22,000 on new chairs for the Assembly Hall last year if it had not already made up its mind on this issue.''

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