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Octogenarian accused councillors of arrogance over massive debt

(October 28, 2010)
A real eye-opener at an official 'extraordinary' meeting of a public body was the sight of an octogenarian battling to protect future generations that provoked lowered heads about a massive parish debt.

"I wish to express an overarching view of this ‘consultation’ as an ordinary member of the public" said 80-year-old Alan Shepherd in his three minutes contribution to the Warminster Council meeting.

This simple introduction to his words was heard by town councillors who were also accused by others of being 'arrogant' and 'ignorant' of public opinion.


"I see this so-called ‘consultation’ as cunningly contrived and contorted in its attempt to be an objective ‘consultation’," claimed Alan.

"So clever, it might have been put together, and the responses later analysed by lawyers – and we know what lawyers do –they make out a case, always an impartial one.

"As artful, one could say, as a cart load of monkeys!" raising a chuckle amongst the 60 or so other members of the public.

"Nowhere was there clear and adequate provision for a simple ‘NO!’. Anyone who had ‘No!, or No Thanks!’ writ large will have been guilty of sending a ‘spoiled paper’ - on whose authority? – the ‘consultation’ is not a statutory voting paper, far from it.

"Such wishes should have been included in the summaries."

"The town council had already endured the ignominy of the first ever parish poll to challenge them which overwhelmingly rejected the plans for the Assembly Hall 'megaloan' by 92 per cent," says former councillor Paul Macdonald.

Parish Poll

Alan had contacted visionforwarminster co-authors Paul and Steve Dancey to ask what could be done and led the call for the parish poll with his petition that gave the town council that result.

"I welcomed his attendance," said Paul. " I thought about boycotting it but I witnessed something special. An octagenarian who inspires me not to give up."

Alan added as the resident who presented the parish poll petition to the council: "Over these last weeks, I have talked to no-one who is positively in favour of this grand escapade, especially in the current financial climate,"  

"Reactions varied between mild aversion to antipathy to downright hostility – and there is a real groundswell of that. Scarcely a sound arithmetic base on which to launch such a large venture for a small town.

"I see the council as a group of people, most of whom seem to have lost touch with the wishes of the ordinary folk of this town.

"It’s as if you have no working antennae whereby to feel the pulse of general feeling," he told the councillors who were set up not to face the public.

"Above all, you seem to have totally forgotten that you were elected as our servants, NOT! I say not our masters.

"Such arrogance as we are seeing is particularly distasteful and unacceptable. Be assured, there will be a day of reckoning."

As those words hit home some councillors were seen to lower their heads.

*See and past hot topics.

* Mr Shepherd was an employee of Wiltshire County Council and local government worker from 1947 and 1952.

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