After ‘WHEXIT’ – ‘FLEXIT’ – Filey Town Council Flexes Its Muscles!
On Monday 13th February 2017, Filey Town Council flexed its muscles and resoundingly trumped the NO CONFIDENCE motion carried at Whitby Town Council last Tuesday 7th February 2017, both with the sheer weight of the emphatic 12:1 victory of the motion proposed by Councillor John HAXBY and seconded by three-time former Mayor of Filey, Councillor John SHACKLETON, and with the inclusion, in the roster of the condemned, of Scarborough Borough Council Chief Exec Jim DILLON, alongside SBC Leader Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] and his Cabinet.
At Agenda Item 4 – PUBLIC QUESTION TIME – Scarborough’s Ron WILKEY, having on this occasion travelled to the opposite end of the Borough, entered an impassioned plea to the Council to embrace the will of the wider public for a representation that truly reflects the mood of the people of the whole Borough.
Then I rose to address members, briefly, on the wording of the relevant Agenda Item:
7. SCARBOROUGH BOROUGH COUNCIL- to receive proposal from Cllr Haxby and seconded by Cllr John SHACKLETON to debate a vote of no confidence in Scarborough Borough Council.
The thrust of my contribution was to decry this form of words as too broad and general – a ‘blunt instrument’ – including in its ambit everyone elected to, or employed by, Scarborough Borough Council; thus condemning everyone in whom there has never been any question of a lack of confidence, from the most committed Councillors to the bin-men and the street-cleaners who keep this Borough rolling.
Councillor John HAXBY was swift to correct me, and rightly so – the Agenda Item was not, in itself a Motion; merely a topic for debate. I was happy to apologise for my tongue-in-cheek ‘mistake’.
Agenda Item 5 dealt with the resignation, after twelve-and-a-half years of exemplary service, of the Town Clerk Mrs Gina ROBINSON, whose guidance has been respected and appreciated by everyone who has served on FTC. She will be sorely missed.
Agenda Item 6 drew a blank.
And so to the keenly anticipated debate on the NO CONFIDENCE issue – Agenda Item 7.
I make no apology for reproducing Councillor John HAXBY’s address to Council in its entirety.
The significance of many of its most telling points (for local residents) will escape the general reader. However, it is only within that wider context – a litany of reproaches spanning 43 years of broken promises, lies, subterfuge and chicanery – that a true picture of Scarborough Borough Council emerges in stark clarity.
Please read it with care. There are now a total twelve Filey Town Councillors and six Whitby Town Councillors who have taken an exposed position in the full glare of publicity to affirm its truth. Eighteem experienced Councillors have called a spade a spade.
I salute them.
Councillor John HAXBY’s address:
Last Tuesday night Whitby Town Council passed a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in The Leader of Scarborough Borough Council and his 7 Cabinet members. This motion was passed by 6 votes to four. Of interest is that three of the 6 in favour were past mayors of Whitby, who presumably have had more knowledge and experience of SBC than most.
Scarborough Borough Council has been ridiculed, vilified and in some cases regarded as a joke, in both National Press and Magazines, being referred to as ‘The Rotten Borough’, ‘The Hall of Secrets’, ‘The Land of Smoke and Mirrors’, ‘The Clown Hall’, ‘The Brown Envelope Brigade’ and other such derogatory terms, being led by a Chief Executive aptly nicknamed by some, ‘Silent Jim’. This does not do Filey, nor any other part of the Borough, any good whatsoever.
I make no apologies for the length of my address tonight. There are new Councillors to whom I need to demonstrate that this is no kneejerk reaction, but is the culmination of many, many years of abuse, neglect and lack of capital spending by Scarborough.
I have sat here for approaching 30 years, and from day 1 have seen this council being permanently locked in conflict and argument with Scarborough. We continually have to plead, beg and implore for the smallest thing to be done, or for the smallest amounts of money to be spent in the town. Requests for information are ignored or at best responded to with incomplete, and at times nonsensical data.
I think the rot really set in with the sale of Deepdene, a former Filey Urban District Council property, taken from us in 1974 by Scarborough under the local government reorganisation. At the time we were, and still are, desperate for community and leisure facilities. SBC promised that 50% of the proceeds of the sale would be ring-fenced for Filey. Subsequently the then Chief Executive, John Trebble, stood at the front there and informed this council that Scarborough had reneged on this promise and that the money had gone into their General Fund for use where there was the highest priority. As Scarborough set the priorities, Filey never saw a penny of this money.
FTC drew up plans for a sports/leisure facility on the Station Avenue car park. Funding to complete the building was almost in place. However, Scarborough refused to assist with the revenue costs of the project and it eventually fell through. Subsequently they assisted in the funding of a sports centre at Pinder School and another at Whitby. No problems with the revenue costs at either of these venues it appears.
We then had the closure of the Sun Lounge. Good riddance some may say, but many argue it was a far better venue for shows and concerts that the current Concert Hall. Filey objected, but for want of £5000 a year it was closed and demolished.
Then came the Single Regeneration Grant, monies amounting to over £3 million awarded by the government to revitalise the town centre of Filey. Murray Street was given a facelift and some shops did receive grants to improve their frontage. However a vast majority of the money went to SBC in administration costs and to renovate the Evron Centre, an existing Scarborough property.
More recently we have the farce over the sale of the tennis courts at Southdene. Land sold for a pittance, without public valuation, to a developer for the building of flats, which could be worth in excess of £4 million. Yes, three hard tennis courts were improved by the developer, BUT, previously, all these courts were accessible to the public 24/7. Now, two are for the sole use of the tennis club, which also has priority use of the third court on two nights of the week. The Chief Executive states that – ‘the third court is readily accessible to members of the public during normal daylight hours and during other times of the day with prior arrangement with the tennis club, accepting the potential for the nights the tennis club may require use’. No details have been agreed by SBC of who to contact, how to contact them, and how this ‘arrangement’ is going to work. The court lights are controlled by the tennis club. Any member of the public wishing to play tennis at dusk or in the evening has to contact an unknown tennis club member to ask if a member was available to come and turn the lights on, then return later to turn them off. Some chance of this happening.
Good luck to the tennis club, but I would suggest Scarborough have the public of Filey, including our visitors, no favours whatsoever. Filey have locked horns with Scarborough over what we see as irregularities in the tendering and sale of this land, and are currently seeking further details, without much success. However what is puzzling is that in a letter last week from the Chief Executive, he states that ‘SBC does not have any statistics on the use of the tennis courts, and SBC recognise that at the time of the sale the tennis club only generated member demand for one court.’ How, by giving the tennis club, who he admits only generates demand for one court, the sole use of over two courts, and by severely limiting the public access and use of the third court, does this help the general public and visitors to Filey, many of whom enjoy a game of tennis. However when one considers that Scarborough Tennis club has lost its site. The land on Filey Road being sold to part fund the Weaponess Sports Village. And, no provision has been made at Weaponess for any tennis, the parts start to fall into place. We can now see where the ‘smoke and mirrors’ starts to make sense.
Next on their hit list is the old Concert Hall, probably destined to become private flats, and the Coble Landing could become a big car park. There is not much of Filey’s silver left for Scarborough to sell off to raise money for their mad cap schemes. Their original intention, some 43 years ago was to ensure Filey had no money and was totally beholden to SBC for everything. Fortunately, in 1974, Filey had retained some allotment land on Scarborough Road, which it sold for housing and invested the money. The now small return on this investment enables us to give small annual grants and to carry out some works which Scarborough will not do.
Over the years we have seen the Marine Drive scandal. Resulting in the cost of millions to the local tax payer, the sacking of a Technical Director and the resignation of the Leader of the Council.
More recently the Futurist debacle. £4 million to demolish a building only to sell the site, to a preferred tenderer, for £600000, against the wishes of many.
£1/2 million costs, over the past three years, of bringing the Tour De Yorkshire cycle race to the area. A race which comes nowhere near Filey and brings nothing to the town, yet as tax payers we are part funding it. Scarborough are quick to point out that such initiatives benefit the economy of the Borough as a whole. Why then are we paying one of the highest council taxes in the country, higher than Westminster, Chelsea and Kensington. Where does this money come from. Whenever Filey needs any, there is none available.
The recent ‘whistleblower’ case, of which we are all well aware, costing us, the taxpayer, over £200000. A case of mismanagement and ill-advice by SBC. Settled ‘out-of-court’ to save us, the public of the Borough, any further expense. Surely, if SBC were innocent, as they protested, then there would have been no expense
Filey was selected as a potential venue for the off-shore powerboat races. SBC objected on the grounds that it was dangerous for the public to line the cliffs at the Country Park to watch the races. Yet they are quite happy to take parking money to enable the public to park, picnic on, and enjoy the same cliffs. The races went to, guess where, Scarborough.
Recently we have the public toilet question, which is to be discussed next. Using the Chamber of Trade’s own words, SBC wants to offload the toilets onto Filey Town Council. Toilets which cost a lot of money to run, which is why they want to off-load them. If they made money they would be retained.
We have seen the level of grass cutting deteriorate to such an extent that only the areas readily accessible to the visitor receive any real attention. The rural, local areas such as Willow Close, Copse Hill etc, are just a mass of weeds. Grass being allowed to grow to three foot, then being cut and allowed to rot where cut. I have to say I do not criticise the workforce of SBC. They only do what they are told to do, and they do a very good job, but what they are allowed to do is very limited.
A green waste initiative, ‘the brown bin’, originally free now costs to use.
The closure of the SBC cash office in Filey, where the elderly and infirm could pay their bills, the closure of the TIC. The list is endless.
However, probably the main problem we face with SBC is communications. Getting timely and accurate information. In fact any information at all would be a bonus. I dread to think how many hundreds of hours the clerk and her staff have spent contacting SBC for information, reminder letters, letters reminding them about reminder letters ad infinitum. How many hours we have spent in this chamber asking if Scarborough has responded to our questions, and asking the clerk to contact yet again, and again, and again. Coming next, as mentioned earlier, is the public toilet debate, a classic example of lack of any meaningful information from Scarborough, inaccurate information. Information this council is expected to make important decisions on. Information we have sought confirmation on many times. Information no sane business man in this chamber would make a decision on.
Mr. Rex Harrison, at the last council meeting, commented on the fact that recently SBC had felled many trees in Church Ravine. Filey had protested to SBC many times in the past on their tree felling policy. We had been assured we would be consulted prior to any further work. However, no-one, not even our own Borough Cllrs. knew these trees were to be cut down.
And now, 43 years since the formation of SBC, Filey is still waiting for its leisure, community centre. Still continually fighting with SBC for any facilities whatsoever. Fighting to retain and not lose facilities. Still waiting for any capital expenditure in the Town. At my last analysis, people in Filey received between 1/8 and 1/12 the capital spend, per person, than the same people in the town of Scarborough. Scarborough is not parished therefore anyone living in Scarborough does not have to pay a local precept as we do in Filey. We are double rated.
Several years ago FTC debated a similar matter. The mayor then, Cllr. Freda Coultas, persuaded the council such motion of no confidence would sour relations between Scarborough and Filey and she would rather try and open dialogue to resolve the problems. At the time the council agreed. We had regular meetings with the Chief Executive, Leader and local Borough Clls. In my opinion these achieved nothing and now I refuse to waste my time listening to the continual rhetoric from Scarborough that there is no money available and Filey will get nothing. Seems funny that money is always available for projects in Scarborough. A £9 million loan to The Sands development. Over £6 million for a new pool at Weaponess. £4 million for the Futurist. £1/2 million for the bike race, skateparks and beachball courts on the Marine Drive etc. etc.
We have waited nearly 20 years for our flood defence scheme to come to fruition, protecting approximately 300 properties. Scarborough certainly has not waited any near this amount of time for the cliff protection works above the Spa, or Whitby for the work on its piers.
Meanwhile Filey’s facilities are declining, being eroded and allowed to rot. The Evron centre is a very good example. Hundreds of thousands needs to be spent to bring the building up to a useable standard, let alone to improve the building. Monies for regular routine maintenance have not been spent, the money having been diverted to other areas such as funding the massive losses at the Spa and Open Air Theatre, and providing more amenities for Scarborough Town. As well as giving hundreds of thousands of pounds of grant to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and other private ventures.
The new Cabinet system has only made matters worse. The cabinet has far too many devolved powers, taking decision making away from local Cllrs. Cabinet members being placed in charge of portfolios of which they have little or no experience, taking advice from officers apparently lacking similar experience. Decisions being made in secret, without reference to the respective local councils. Hiding behind commercial confidentiality. Far too much power in the hands of the few.
Something needs to change, and it needs to change now, before Filey suffers any further decline and loss of facilities. We need to attract families to the town, offer them jobs and recreational facilities to entice, and keep them here. We need to improve, if not just keep tidy, our tourist facilities. We need to send a firm message to SBC that Filey is very unhappy and deserves better treatment, and we need to support our colleagues in Whitby. A vote of no confidence carries no legal status but will certainly covey a message.
It is with regret and much sadness fellow Cllrs. that I must propose the motion that Filey Town Council has no confidence in The Chief Executive of Scarborough Borough Council, the Leader of Scarborough Borough Council and the Cabinet of Scarborough Borough Council.
This detailed and heart-felt indictment was followed by a surprisingly brief debate. When the vote came, there was no flicker of hesitation. Twelve hands rose almost as one.
Councillor John HAXBY (Proposer)
Councillor John SHACKLETON (Seconder)
Councillor Susan BOSOMWORTH (Mayor)
Councillor Richard WALKER (Deputy Mayor)
Councillor John CASEY
Councillor Marilyn ANTHONY
Councillor Diane GLANVILL
Councillor Robert HORLEY
Councillor Jacqui HOULDEN-BANKS
Councillor Jeffrey MEEK
Councillor Kevin WILKIE
Councillor Marion WRIGHT
Not everyone present was best pleased by the outcome – most notably, SBC Cabinet Portfolio Holder Mike COCKERILL [Ind.], who assumed his wonted (in times of wrath) high colour. This very public humiliation does not augur well for his prospects of success in the forthcoming North Yorkshire County Council elections, now less than three months away. It is said, wisely enough, that all political careers end in tears . . .
Following the meeting, in the general conversation as we left the building, I heard more than one suggestion that the rather isolated figure of Councillor Marion WRIGHT – the only Councillor to oppose the Motion – had found herself unable to condemn SBC Leader Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] (under whose auspices she had been proud to attend one of the Queen’s Garden Parties) solely for what may best be described as reasons of gratitude and loyalty – worthy qualities in any human being, on this occasion sadly misplaced.
Another wag remarked that she had now cast herself as Filey’s answer to SBC Councillor Vanda INMAN [Ind.] – widely regarded as the woman who demolished The Futurist Theatre.
But this was no time for churlish recriminations. The abiding impression was of a long-cowed son of a brutal father who, on gaining the full vigour of his manhood, had finally given that mean old bullying bastard of a father the good kicking he had so long deserved – and without a physical blow being struck.
Ah, the power of the well-turned word. I salute you, John HAXBY!
For those wishing to take part in what is coming to be known as the Scarborough Spring . . .
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