Sunday 24th September 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

Who’s Complaining Now ?

March 17, 2012 Whitby Town

‘Slanging-match at Whitby Town (Parish) Council’

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD,  following his “Who’s Complaining?” article.

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As luck would have it, a real ‘live’ example of the SBC Complaints Procedure has just begun that informed readers will find fascinating.

My eye-witness source tells me that the Meeting of the Whitby Town (Parish) Council Policy & Development Committee on Thursday 15th March 2012 – regettably not attended by the Whitby Gazette Council Reporter Karl Hansell – ended in a ‘slanging-match’ between Councillors and the Clerk, in a flagrant breach of the terms of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

My source reports that, to their great credit, Councillors Dennis COLLINS, Sean RIXHAM-SMITH and Mrs Amanda SMITH left the Meeting, in that order, thus leaving the Committee inquorate – though, inexplicably, the Meeting seems to have continued in disregard of the rules (see Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Paragraphs 12, 28 and 45).

A Council or Committee is normally termed inquorate (i.e. lacking a quorum) if less than three or one-third of the total membership, whichever is the greater, is present. The Policy & Development Committee has eight members.

Eight dividede by three equals 2.66. Fractional divisions must be ’rounded up’ to the next whole number; therefore, the Committee would normally be quorate with three members present.

But Whitby Town (Parish) Council’s own Terms of Reference for the Policy & Development Committee state that the number for quoracy is five.

Details of the present membership of the Committee are not available on the WTC web-site ( http://www.whitbytowncouncil.gov.uk ), though here is Thursday’s attendance record:

  • Cllr Niall CARSON (Chair) – absent
  • Cllr Dennis COLLINS -present – WITHDREW
  • Cllr Terry JENNISON (absent)
  • Cllr Walter JONES (Vice-Chair) – present (Chaired this meeting)
  • Cllr Mrs Wynne JONES -present
  • Cllr Sean RIXHAM-SMITH – present – WITHDREW
  • Cllr Mrs Amanda SMITH – present – WITHDREW
  • Cllr Philip TRUMPER – present.

Since only three Councillors remained (after the departure of Councillors Dennis COLLINS, Sean RIXHAM-SMITH and Mrs Amanda SMITH), the Committee was therefore rendered inquorate and the Clerk had a duty to close the Meeting. This did not happen.

I await written confirmation, but I am assured that Formal Complaints to the SBC Standards Committee have since been lodged by both the Town Clerk and by Cllr Mrs Amanda SMITH against two Whitby Town (Parish) Councillors; Cllr Walter JONES (who, in Cllr Carson’s absence, was acting Chair of the Meeting) and Cllr Mrs Wynne JONES, who are reported to have repeatedly shouted “Shut up!” across the floor of the Chamber and behaved in a generally abusive and hectoring manner.

I will be scrutinizing developments very careful.

It will be particularly interesting to note how Councillor Walter JONES comes out of this. Here follows the text of my Complaint of December 2009 against Councillor Walter JONES after a similar outburst. That Complaint resulted in Councillor JONES being found to have breached the Code of Conduct.

His ‘sentence’ was to endure fifteen minutes mediation/training with the then Monitoring Officer, Ian ANDERSON. If that mediation/retraining ever took place, it certtainly failed in iots objectives.

Can Councillor WalterJONES remain in office – an office he holds without a single vote from a Whitby elector – after this second Formal Complaint?

On top of that, I am also informed that Cllr Walter JONES is now in dispute with English Heritage in respect of a £12K grant, funding a report by Cllr JONES on the Listed Buildings of Baxtergate – a Report which English Heritage apparently regard as woefully and unacceptably inadequate, listing two-and-a-half pages of A4′s worth of failings.

You are wondering where the £12K ended up. Me too!

Here lies the folly of election of Un-Opposed candidates and election by Co-Option. It is often said that the public, if dissatisfied by the performance or integrity of an elected member, can only seek remedy at the next election – vote ‘em out!

That is of no value if they are safely returned to office through the connivance of their cronies or the disillusionment of the electorate.

Two Councillors have approached me for my advice on whether or not the Council has powers to remove the Cllrs JONES from office. I fear not.

Even a Parish Poll asking the people of Whitby if they have confidence in the Cllrs JONES carries no power or legal force.

In my view, if the Councillors concerned had the remotest scrap of human decency, their resignations would already be lying on the Clerk’s desk.

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