Monday 04th December 2023,
North Yorks Enquirer

A BETTER Town Council

September 24, 2023 Whitby Town

A BETTER Town Council

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, drawing some informative comparisons between Whitby Town Council and a GOOD Town Council.

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Following two recent Town Meetings/Assemblies, the people of Whitby now have an opportunity to vote in a Town Poll on three crucial issues likely to have a huge impact on our town centres, east and west – and on the way the town moves forward under the auspices of the newly-formed North Yorkshire Council.

These important proposals (supported by Whitby Town Council’s two representatives on the Whitby Towns Deal Board – former Mayor, Councillor Linda WILD, and Town Clerk, Mr Michael KING) have received £10.1 million and £1.5 million respectively from the DLUHC – yet the vast majority of Whitby people have no use for them, with the sole exception of a strong desire to have the Old Town Hall restored.

Not every Whitby Town Councillor recognises this.

In particular, Councillors Noreen WILSON and Linda WILD regard these matters as “pointless”, “irrelevant”, “childish” and “trivial” – their words, not mine:

In my opinion, anyone who thinks this kind of vituperative drivel is “the ordinary business” of any Town Council is too arrogant for public office.

Do the proponents of this Motion not grasp that that all three of their so-called “trivial” Questions for Poll have already been deemed legally valid by the North Yorkshire Returning Officer, Richard FLINTON?

Councillors Alf ABBOTT, Rob BARNETT and Chris RIDDOLLS have proposed these Questions for one reason only – to allow the people of Whitby to have a say in how the town is being run. All credit to them. Even so, the Town Poll could only take place with the support of the people. All credit to them, too.

How Councillor WILSON’s ridiculous Motion could ever have found its way on to an Agenda for an Extraordinary Meeting of any Council only the Town Clerk/RFO Michael KING can explain. What is it that these ‘Councillors’ expect members to vote on?

  • Are you FOR or AGAINST the Motion that “this Council acts in the best interests of the council-tax payers of Whitby”? Since when?
  • Are you FOR or AGAINST the Motion that those who tabled it “lead by example and act in a way that secures public confidence”? By this example? How?
  • Are you FOR or AGAINST the Motion that  “certain members … should resign”?  Too right, they should.

This nonsense does not even qualify as a Motion at all. It seeks no outcome. It is meaningless. It brings Whitby Town Council into further disrepute.

I see this ridiculous ‘Motion’ as nothing more than a last, desperate and surely futile attempt to cling to a purely imagined ‘power’ that has never ever been exercised in the best interests of the people of Whitby. A hollow ego trip.

And perhaps the Clerk/RFO can explain how this Extraordinary Meeting can even be held in the Pannett Art Gallery (which has the acoustical properties of a subway station), when a previous Extraordinary Meeting (on 15th August 2023) was obliged to be held in the Normanby Rooms on account of a Resolution of Full Council passed on Tuesday 4th July 2023 stating:

Since when did the Clerk have the ‘power’ to over-rule Full Council? And who could possibly benefit?

Unless the walls of the Art Gallery have been lined with sound-absorbent material and the ceiling lowered a couple of metres since 4th July, it will still be as unsuitablea venue for the “deaf or hard of hearing” to attend Council meetings as it was then.

“Wo leben wir?” – as the Germans say; “Where are we living?”.

If the foregoing is anything to go by, we must be living in Petty Bickering, North Yorkshire – where Council Meetings are held in the Dementia Garden.

So I urge all Whitby residents who care one bit about the present and future wellbeing of the town to come along on Tuesday 26th September 2023, at 6:00pm sharp, and witness for themselves the antics of these foolish people who are so besotted by their own sense of self-importance as to have lost all sense of proportion and all sense of public service.

I shall be there. And I intend to film the Meeting, in the public interest.

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Meanwhile, my thanks go out to a member of the public who has drawn my attention to a superb example of first-tier local government in the stunningly beautiful estuary fishing port of Looe, situated on the south coast of Cornwall. Naturally, I turned to Google:

Wikipedia describes Looe thus:

“Looe is 20 miles (32 km) west of Plymouth and seven miles (11 km) south of Liskeard, divided in two by the River Looe, East Looe (Cornish: Logh) and West Looe (Cornish: Porthbyhan, lit. “little cove”) being connected by a bridge. Looe developed as two separate towns each with MPs and its own mayor. The town centres around a small harbour and along the steep-sided valley of the River Looe which flows between East and West Looe to the sea beside a sandy beach.”

Within a Conservation Area, Looe shares many characteristics with Whitby; historically a fishing port, it is now very much a tourist and second homes destination, situated on a ‘dinosaur coast’ with a hinterland of expansive moorlands.

Its 12-member Town Council (no dinosaurs) employs a staff of nine, including the Town Clerk, Deputy Clerk, Responsible Financial Offier (RFO), Business Development Officer, Admin & Planning Officer, Community Hub Supervisor and Community Hub Information Officer.

I would strongly urge Whitby residents to spend ten or fifteen minutes browsing the website of Looe Town Council – nothing could provide a clearer indication of just how utterly inadequate is the standard of service provided by Whitby Town Council:

(Your homework, Councillors: Compare and contrast).

As can be readily confirmed, Looe Town Council (LTC) enjoys a deep engagement with residents. True, residents pay a good deal more for their Town Council than we do – but it seems to be worth every penny of it. LTC works closely with Cornwall Council (a unitary authority, like North Yorkshire Council) in an atmosphere of pro-active co-operation and mutual respect.

Last Friday, I made a number of calls, as a journalist, to a selection of Looe businesses and accomodation providers, asking what they thought of their Town Council. Here are some of their comments:

“Great. They listen, they take note, and they make stuff happen.”

“We’re so lucky. The staff are so helpful and friendly. Everything runs like clockwork.”

“I have come across the North Yorks Enquirer. I can’t understand why our Council’s so good and yours is so poor.”

On Saturday, I asked a number of Whitby locals what they thought about Whitby Town Council. The responses were illuminating but unsurprising:

“They’re useless. We won’t have anything to do with them.”

“That [NAME REDACTED] thinks she owns the place. She’s not even from around here.”

“Most of them are only in it for themselves”.

I make no bones about it. At the very least, I want a Town Council every bit as good as Looe Town Council. Or Malton. Or Knaresborough. One free of embittered old biddies.

Interestingly, according to this BBC report, Thornton-le-Dale Council has been making giant strides towards ousting the dead wood:

Whitby can do this. Whitby deserves it. Why should we settle for less?

About a third of our Councillors are trying to bring about some much-needed change. They deserve our support.

Come along to the Extraordinary Meeting of Whitby Town Council on Tuesday 26th September at 6:00pm.

Turn up, stand up and speak up. Say your piece!

And be sure to turn out and VOTE in the Town Poll on 6th October 2023.

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