Wednesday 29th May 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Whitby Town Meeting & the WSP

Whitby Town Meeting & the WSP

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on those aspects of the Assembly of the Whitby Town Meeting held on Wednesday 22nd March 2023 that relate directly to the proposed ‘Amalgamation’ of the two secondary schools which comprise the Whitby Secondary Partnership (WSP).

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I attended the Town Meeting in my capacity as an elector of the Civic Parish of Whitby. I will constrain this present report to my observations of those parts of the Meeting relating to the proposed Amalgamation and WSP.

The Meeting was graced by the presence of a number of Whitby Town Councillors. I remember noting Councillor Sandra TURNER, Councillor John NOCK, Councillor Alf ABBOTT, Councillor Heather COUGHLAN, Councillor Rob BARNETT, Councillor Chris RIDDOLLS and one or two more whose names I do not yet know. All credit to them for attending.

Nevertheless, WTC presently enjoys a full complement of 19 Councillors; one may well wonder where the other half lives.

Also conspicuous by their absence were North Yorkshire (County) Councillors Neil SWANNICK [Lab.] and Phil TRUMPER [Con.], who together represent the Whitby urban Divisions. Perhaps they were busy representing the people of Whitby elsewhere, on more important matters.

Whitby Town Mayor Councillor Linda WILD, attending, presided as Chair (as is required under law – had she been absent, and the Deputy Chair of the Town Council also, those present would have been required to elect a Chair). In the event, Councillor WILD conducted a lengthy but entirely amiable Meeting (an achievement, because passions run high on the subject of the proposed schools’ Amalgamation), even-handedly opening the floor to all those who wished to speak.

WTC Councillor Jonathan HARSTON assumed the role of Clerk.

Having completed the formalities, the Chair opened the floor to those who wished to address the Meeting.

During the Meeting, several Motions were Proposed and Seconded, from the floor. However, since (as yet) I do not have access to the precise form of words of Motions other than my own, I must postpone comment on those, for the moment.

Perhaps because I had previously informed the Clerk of the Whitby Town Council, Mr Michael KING, that it was my intention to table matters relating to the schools’ Amalgamation, the Chair invited me to proceed.

After a short preamble, explaining the context of the Motion, I Proposed the following:

MOTION

I, NIGEL WARD, being an elector of the Civic Parish of Whitby, do move that:

this Council write to North Yorkshire (County) Councillor Annabel WILKINSON (Executive Member for Education, Learning & Skills) and Mr Stuart CARLTON (Corporate Director: Children & Young People Services), informing them that Whitby Town Council fully supports Whitby parents/carers in their strenuous opposition to the proposed Amalgamation of Whitby’s secondary schools – this formal opposition to be included within the present Consultation process.

This was Seconded by Whitby Town Councillor Chris RIDDOLLS.

I felt, and the Mayor agreed, that this was not a contentious Motion; it was nothing more nor less than the Town Council representing the views of the Whitby electorate. Such is democracy. This was reflected in the fact that it was CARRIED almost unanimously.

On the same subject, Whitby Town Councillor Rob BARNETT Proposed a Motion concerning the need for an Independent Review of education in the Whitby catchment area, to be commissioned by North Yorks (County) Council but comprising members outside of the local authorities, selected on the basis of experience and expertise. I cannot yet reproduce the precise form of words of Councillor BARNETT’s Motion. I hope to do so at a later date. I can report that it was CARRIED almost unanimously.

The Chair graciously then welcomed me to the microphone for a second time to allow me to Propose a second Motion:

MOTION

I, NIGEL WARD, being an elector of the Civic Parish of Whitby do move that:

this Council write to the Co-Chairs of the Whitby Secondary Partnership Board of Governors (Ms Christina ZANELLI and Ms Su CROSSLAND) calling upon them to write, on behalf of the Board, to North Yorkshire (County) Councillor Annabel WILKINSON (Executive Member for Education, Learning & Skills) and Mr Stuart CARLTON (Corporate Director: Children and Young People Services), requesting them to instigate:

(i) the immediate and formal withdrawal of the Whitby Secondary Partnership Board of Governors’ formal request for the Amalgamation of the Whitby secondary schools;

(ii) the immediate and formal appointment of an Interim Board of Governors for the Whitby Secondary Partnership;

and, immediately thereafter;

(iii) to tender their resignations, along with all other members of the Board, from the Whitby Secondary Partnership Board of Governors.

This Motion was Seconded by Councillor Rob BARNETT and also CARRIED almost unanimously.

It should be clearly undersatood that the Town Council has no powers to compel the recipients of these expressions of the will of the people to take any action whatsoever. What the Town Council can achieve is to send a strong and formal public record message to the decision-makers who (at least morally) are bound to take these Motions into account. Alas, no more than that. But County Councillor Annabel WILKINSON has given me her personal assurance that everything will be taken into consideration. I have no reason to doubt her word.

I have provided the Meeting Clerk, Councillor HARSTON, with hard-copy of my two Motions and have emailed the text to the Town Clerk, Mr Michael KING, for inclusion in the Council’s public record.

I am very glad about all this. My Motions seemed to have captured the sentiment not only of those members of the public who attended, but also of the scores of people who have contacted me since the Public Consultation sessions of Wednesday 8th March 2023, expressing the same aspirations.

Finally (for now), the Chair read out communications from members of the public wondering why WTC has so many members (19) in relation to the town’s population (circa 13,000 – according to the Chair) when the forthcoming Town Councils for Harrogate and Scarborough are to comprise no more than 15 members, despite populations several times that of Whitby?

The Chair wondered whether or not WTC should make approaches to NY(C)C seeking a Governance Review to that end?

I suggested to the Chair that, if she supported that view, she could Propose a Motion to that effect – which she then did.

I was happy to Second that Motion, which carried – though not quite as overwhelmingly as the three WSP Motions.

I regard this evening as a significant step forward in the process of growing a keener engagement between Whitby Town Council and the people of Whitby, whom they are duty-bound to represent.

When Scarborough Borough Council is abolished, on 31st March 2023, Whitby Town Council will become the people’s sole direct conduit to our new masters in Northallerton. To represent us well, they will need to have full insight into our hearts and minds. Whitby Town Council is not a powerful decision-making body. With the support of the public, it could be a great deal more influential than has been the case in the past. That must be to everyone’s advantage. If Whitby Town Councillors are to raise their voices on our behalf at County Hall, Northallerton, we the people must put the words in their mouths.

Henceforth, I mean to attend Whitby Town Council Meetings and I would urge everyone who gives a flying flock about the future of our town to do the same.

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