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North Yorks Enquirer

Whitby Assembly demands Town Poll extras

September 19, 2023 Whitby Town

Whitby Assembly demands Town Poll extras

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, offering a brief report on the re-convened Town Meeting/Assembly held on Monday 18th September 2023 to complete the business halted by the Town Mayor at the 4th September 2023 Meeting/Assembly.

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Whitby residents came out in force last night to attend the second of two Town Meetings/Assemblies convened within two weeks in September.

At the 4th September Town Meeting/Assembly – a heated and often acrimonious affair presided over by the Town Mayor, Councillor Bob DALRYMPLE – a Town Poll was called on the Question:

In fact, this Question is a good deal easier than it reads.

A ‘YES’ vote is a vote for DEMOCRACY.

Use it or lose it!

Readers who believe Whitby Town Council offers good ‘Value for Money’ should take a look at Knaresborough Town Council, where ‘Band D’ Council Tax payers, paying only £25.85 per annum for their Town Council’s Precept (as compared to £57.31 in Whitby) are making a play for ‘double devolution’ to provide more services and amentities.

Knaresbrough Town Councillor David GOODE said:

Whitby Town Council, in sharp constrast, intends to spend £30K on iPads for members (plus annual service charges) and £7-8K per annum for an extra staff member to sit around the office waiting to process the occasional FOIA request. ‘Value for Money’? You decide.

Following the Mayor’s hasty closure of the 4th September Meeting, Councillors Chris RIDDOLLS and Alf ABBOTT convened a second Meeting as quickly as possible, in the hope of being able to add further Questions to the Town Poll already called (and intended to take place on Friday 6th October 2023) on the crucially important concerns that surround the Whitby Town Deal Board’s inexplicable plans (i) to restore the Old Town Hall (fine) and build a ‘plinth’ (or flat-topped pyramid) in the Market Place (at a cost of £1.5 million) and (ii) to build a 4-storey Maritime Training Hub on Endeavour Wharf (at a cost of £10 million). These cost estimates date back to pre-Covid construction industry pricing. Since then, build costs have increased by 24% and materials by 43%.  It is unclear whether or not these proposals even remain viable.

Neither the Mayor nor the Deputy Mayor (Councillor Jonathan HARSTON) attended last night’s Meeting. Nor did the Town Clerk. A poor show.

This necessitated the election of a Chair by those electors in attendance. Fortunately, former-Councillor Lee DERRICK stepped up, at very short notice, and was elected virtually unanimously. And what a good choice he proved to be; affable and welcoming – in sharp contrast to the arrogant rudeness of the Mayor’s performance two weeks earlier – Lee DERRICK nevertheless conducted the legal formalities with the consummate rigour and was at pains to ensure that every would-be speaker had her/his say.

It is worthy of mention that, in addition to the convenors – Councillors RIDDOLLS and ABBOTT – Councillors Rob BARNETT, Steve SMITH and Sandra TURNER also attended, as the faithful representatives of the people of Whitby we all know them to be. All of these Councillors thoroughly deserve re-election – if only the Council as a whole had the courage to go to the people – which I doubt.

The Mayor himself has openly declared his intention to defy the Town Poll and remain in office until 2027, when the next full elections are due. He may have overlooked the fact that Whitby Town Council has the opportunity to elect its Mayor each year at the beginning of May. Councillor DALRYMPLE is far from assured of even a second term in the role.

When the formalities had been concluded, former-Councillor Sue BOYCE was the first to speak, providing fascinating historic and geological background (accompanied by a very informative slide-show) about Endeavour Wharf and its general unsuitability as a site for for multi-storey development in a high-risk flood zone. Members of the public offered further information and impressions. Some questioned why the soon-to-be-abandoned Eskdale School premises could not be redeployed for maritime training purposes. Some questioned whether or not such a large new-build on Endeavour Wharf could ever be filled with maritime students; would it end up as holiday accommodation? And what about the hundreds of parking places that would be lost? Are the streets of Whitby not congested enough? Who comes up with these hare-brained schemes?

Unsurprisingly, the vote on this second Question for Poll carried virtually unanimously:

Another former-Councillor (and long-time Council Officer) Val APPLETON provided up-to-date information on the present situation regarding the infamous ‘plinth’ proposal for the Market Place, which appears to morph from one absurdity to the next without any reference to the public. As has been observed for over a year now, virtually nobody in Whitby has a desire to change the Market Place in any way and everybody wants to see the Old Town Hall restored to its original dignity.

Again, the vote on this third Question for Poll carried virtually unanimously:

Of course, Whitby Town Council may decide to ignore the outcome of the Town Poll, as it is legally entitled to do – even if every elector in the town votes ‘YES’ on the three Questions. Indeed, it will surprise no-one if that is the case.

This, in itself, serves to emphasise the importance of Question One – if the Mayor had not already indicated his disdain for the will of the people.In my view, a Town Council that ignores the people it purports to respresent is an insult to democracy.

Barring the convening of an extraordinary Meeting (which may yet happen, if Councillor RIDDOLLS has any say in the matter), Whitby Town Council is scheduled to meet next on 7th November 2023. It is unclear where that Meeting will take place, since the Council has already resolved not to meet in the Pannett Art Gallery until such time as the venue becomes compliant with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (which requires the Council to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the disabled, including the hard of hearing) or a more suitable venue is identified. The Town Clerk apparently has divergent opinions. In my view, there is nothing wrong with the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the following news from LGC+ will give added optimism to the prospects of these three Questions for Poll:

New levelling up minister appointed

18 SEPTEMBER 2023 BY JONATHAN KNOTT

Jacob Young, the Conservative MP for Redcar, has been appointed as a parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department for Levelling Up,
Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

He replaces Dehenna Davison, who stood down from the ministerial role
today, saying chronic migraines had made it “difficult, if not impossible” to do the job….
Mr Young became Redcar’s first ever Conservative MP in the 2019 general election. According to his website, he previously worked in the chemical industry on Teesside as a process operator for a major petrochemical company.

Mr Young was a councillor at Middlesbrough Council between 2017 and 2019. He sits on the board of the South Tees Development Corporation, which is involved in the controversial Teesworks project that is currently under investigation.

At the very least, there will be one man at the DLUHC who knows where Whitby is . . .

JACOB YOUNG MP (Redcar)

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