Town Meeting/Assembly NOT Cancelled
A Letter to the Editor from Mrs JOYCE STANGOE, minute-taker of the Town Meeting/Assembly of 18th September 2023, writes to assure Whitby residents that the Public Meeting to be held in the Ballroom of the Royal Hotel at 6:00pm this evening will go ahead, despite Whitby Town Council’s efforts to deny the people their opportunity to discuss and comment on the Council’s intention to raise the Precept (local Council Tax) by 46%.
Can I please confirm that the meeting tonight is going ahead at 6.00pm, Tuesday, 19th December 2023, in the Ballroom, The Royal Hotel Whitby.
Can you please spread the word as we are appalled at the way Whitby Town Council has handled the request for this meeting.
This, together with the proposed 46% increase in the Whitby Precept for 2024-2025 are items the residents of Whitby should be concerned with and allowed to express their opinions. The Coalition Government’s 2013 consultation paper on setting up new parish councils said:
“We believe that localism is best achieved when it is led by the local communities themselves. We see town and parish councils as playing a vital role in helping local people to make this happen; it is for this reason we want to support those neighbourhoods who want to set up a parish council.”
I have below highlighted the timeline for the progress of the Call for a Town Assembly/Meeting, and the actions taken by Whitby Town Council. Is our local Town Council really interested in working or consulting with its residents?
Whitby Town Council announced yesterday that the Town Assembly meeting called for 19th December is invalid due to claiming “The notice itself of the evidence of the failure to provide the requisite number of clear days.”
What it did not highlight was:
5th Dec. Meeting of the Finance, Policy & General Purposes Committee of WTC;
A written call for Town Assembly/Meeting bearing the signatures of 19 electors, handed in following the meeting with regard to the proposed 46% increase in the Whitby Precept for 2024-2025. The Town Clerk refused to progress it stating that neither the Mayor or the Clerk would be in attendance.
The Chair/Mayor and Councillors were emailed confirming that, in the absence of the Chair/Mayor or his Deputy, a Proposer and Seconder were ready to progress a Town Assembly meeting with the Minutes/Notes of the Town Assembly Meeting of 18th September 2023 to be made available, along with a copy of the Electoral Roll. The Coliseum was booked for 19th Dec. and Notices were prepared. The Chair/Mayor denied that the Council held the Minutes/Notes of the Town Assembly Meeting of 18th September 2023.
11th Dec. at 09:14;
The Town Clerk emailed a copy of the cancellation of the Coliseum booking. A new venue was located, with Notices redone and displayed by noon in prominent places around the Town and on social media. At around 2.00pm a letter arrived to one of the signatories for the Town Assembly, by post, on plain A4 note paper (postmark 8th December 2023, no Council letterhead, no official role or position of author shown, indecipherable signature, no printed name) claiming that the “Call” document had been left at the 5th Dec meeting and it was being returned to one of 19 signatories.
18th December, at 10:41;
The Town Clerk published the “Invalid Meeting for 19th Dec.” notice on social media/local radio and cancelled the meeting room without informing the signatories for the Town Assembly.
The meeting room was re-booked by a Whitby resident well-wisher AND WILL GO AHEAD.
For residents who are unclear what powers and functions Town & Parish Councils have, they are as follows:
- Don’t have the means to run public services. Whitby Town Council manages allotments and acts as the Trustee of Whitby Museum.
- The only power available solely to Parish/Town councils is to obtain land for use as allotments.
- Exercise a general consultative role on behalf of local people, e.g. have a statutory consultation rights on planning matters
- Parish/Town Councils have the power to take a share of council tax bills (a Precept) from their residents.*The average increase in parish precepts in 2021-22 was 2.8%. This was a fall from 4.0% in 2020-21, 4.9% in 2019-20, 4.9% in 2018-19 and 6.3% in 2017-18.1
However, English local government legislation covering principal authorities does not cover, or apply differently to, Parish and Town Councils:
- The legislation regarding executive arrangements (Mayors/Cabinets) and overview and scrutiny in the Localism Act 2011, originally introduced in the Local Government Act 2000, does not apply to Parish Councils;
- The requirements for committees to be politically balanced, in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, do not apply to Parish Councils;
- English Parish and Town Councils are not covered by the Local Government Ombudsman;
- Limited requirements for audit exist for Councils with an income and expenditure of under £6.5 million (a limit which applies to all Parish and Town Councils); see the provisions of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Councils with an income and expenditure of under £25,000 are not subject to routine audit.
- The Government published a draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill in December 2016, which set out its plans to introduce a new Public Service Ombudsman. The draft Bill would have extended the jurisdiction of the Public Service Ombudsman to all Parish and Town Councils. That Bill has not been introduced to Parliament.
Please publicise this meeting as widely as possible, and we hope to see you there.
If anyone cannot find transport to attend the meeting, please contact me and I will see what I can do.
Note: *Parish and Town Councils: recent issues by Mark Sandford, 15th September 2021, House of Commons library.parliament.uk
What Whitby Town Mayor Councillor Bob Dalrymple said in his Open Letter when he took office: