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BPC Resignations

Posted on 23rd March, 2017

From reading the March meeting minutes, Cllr Gutsell, Cllr Gibbon and also the Clerk Tony Jay have announced their intention to resign i.e. two of the three Councillors involved in the sub-committee to review their vexatious complaint about us/BOB; choosing to resign immediately after their dubious recommendation to implement their draft policy further against us. 

 

BPC seem to have spent an awful amount of time avoiding answering our questions, speaking/minuting negatively in public, making incorrect and misleading statements, drafting/redrafting and implementing their vexatious policy. We wonder, are these resignations perhaps in order to avoid publicly answering questions relating BPC's actions during and subsequent to the public Inquiry, the Parish Plan, its 'loss', and BPC's undeclared intentions for the future of Bleadon. They must all have breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Appeal was finally dismissed, otherwise their inaction may certainly have gained more ire and criticism!

  

Which is the more accurate BPC access to information mechanism: the legal minuted ratified public minutes approach (indicating a parish plan to be submitted to the Inquiry); or the selective email to councillors, Action Group and us approach (indicating that BPC can not find a copy)? In the process of trying to find out BPC publicly implemented their vexatious complaint policy and are not still answering these and other basic questions for at least the next six months! Let's hope that the Parish Plan turns up before Bleadon gets another major development application (like the new proposal for 70 houses on Bleadon Hill/A370 junction down the road from the Inquiry location).

 

However, many questions still remain unanswered from this process, including:

  • Where is the Parish Plan? that was created at great public expense, and what is the future plan for Bleadon should further applications be forthcoming? 
  • How can a parish council refuse to send a copy of a Parish Plan to residents/us but can state that it has sent it to district councillors, North Somerset Council and a public Inquiry? Surely its a public document as created by Bleadon residents with BPC!
  • How can a parish council implement any unadopted and unpublished policy against residents, in this case its vexatious policy? There is supposed to be a legal democratic decision making process leading to BPC's adopted declarations.
  • How can a parish council be allowed to invoke its vexatious policy against members of the public to seemingly avoid supplying information to the public, whether documentation or their public approach? In this case a parish plan and avoidance of stating their intentions for the parish of Bleadon during and subsequent to a public Inquiry. 
  • How can a parish council choose to mislead residents rather than clarify/correct their minutes and public statements? 
  • How can BPC conduct complaint policies in public forums, agenda and/or minutes and committees, but not discuss their intentions or actions with the people it concerns in person or via email either before, during or after the process?
  • How can a parish council who has resolved to create and maintain its third website, to publish information to residents, not publish key documentation and facts indicating its policies, plans, etc. for Bleadon, including the Parish Plan? 
  • Did BPC actually hold a legal sub-committee meeting to discuss their vexatious complaint, by publishing a public notice of meeting summons, if so where and when was it published? 

Why is it that simple basic requests for information lead to BPC making public negative statements about us/BOB and that BPC resignations occur before clarity of the issues has been made, both to the public and residents involved? This is a similar outcome to our successful request to BPC to continue publishing draft minutes between meetings last year and queries about design of  the third BPC website re-write. This led to BPC's negative public statements about us/BOB over a number of months, a closed extra-ordinary meeting and the resignation of two councillors and the clerk around the same time as our official complaint. Questions still remain unanswered following that process too.

 

Towards the end of BPC's Mar 2017 meeting the public were excluded 'by reason of the confidential nature of the items of business to be transacted' (293.22). We therefore feel that BPC's conversational 'notes' made "After the meeting had finished", which were tagged on the end of the official publicly distributed minutes, are highly inappropriate. It is written that two people attribute their involvement in this debacle as a "contributory factor" yet BPCdo not inform the public as to what questions were raised by us that led BPC to escalate this situation i.e. the loss of the Parish Plan. We believe that these resignations should have either been made before in the public forum or not be minuted at all. BPC have repeatedly stated that they cannot correct minutes and only include what was said at the meeting, including stating "The issue of whether what was said is incorrect or not is irrelevant." We believe that BPC are therefore inappropriately, and perhaps unlawfully, using their minutes as means to unjustly further discredit us/BOB in public forums rather than answer key questions.

 

In our opinion, this farce has shown BPC's disregard for government's best practice guidelines and their associated responsibilities as public facing elected representatives. Like 'Groundhog Day' BPC seem to ignore their own historic policies, plans, procedures, decisions, rewriting them as they go and misinforming the public. The lack of use of the parish plan as a reference for public opinion and support, repeatedly indicating at public meetings that they have a copy yet telling us they can't find an electronic or paper version is one example. Instead of following a holistic public produced strategic plan they are guided by ... what? ... their own individual personal views? What happened to The Good Councillors Guide and BPC's Code of Conduct with its 'Members Obligations' to the public and 'The Seven Principles of Public Life' i.e. selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership?

 

An example of how BPC use their public forums and disregard their policies, in our opinion, is their public implementation of the draft unadopted vexatious complaint policies. BPC have neglected to inform the public that they ignored the current published adopted version and instead used two different draft versions to ensure implementation against us; i.e. before either had been officially and publicly adopted (min 293.15). Absent is any public statement as to why their draft versions remove aspects of the adopted policy, including the whole of section "1. Rights of Public Access,' which opening point states "The Council recognises that, in the absence of good reasons to the contrary, members of the public have a right of access to the Council to seek advice, help or services that the Council offers". Also, BPC's minutes aggressively state the reasons for their vexatious complaint implementation but again neglects to accurately inform the public of the original reasons and questions that led to BPC escalating this situation (293.23).

 

Similar to our official complaint last year we have not received any explanation as to why our queries are 'unreasonable or unacceptable'; or why BPC are 'unable' to communicate the information to us/residents; or why BPC has acted the way it has towards us/BOB, especially in public. Three months on and still BPC are avoiding answering the questions and have not publicly declared the whereabouts and current status of the Parish Plan. 

 
It must be remembered that this all started when we/BOB wrote a group email to NSC, BPC and the Action Group during the break in the public Inquiry, urgently asking for clarity of information and approach before it reconvened the following week. This was to ensure that we all had the same knowledge, understanding and approach and worked together during the Inquiry. We asked BPC for a copy of the Parish Plan, associated documents, their approach to protecting Bleadon as a rural village community and its use of the Plan in this process. The Parish Plan was created by, and for, the residents of Bleadon. It is a 20 year plan, adopted by BPC in 2009 and supplied to North Somerset, as stated in BPC minutes. BOB only has a draft version of a 25 page A4 document. North Somerset indicate that they have not received a copy. Cllr Porter and/or BPC did not submit or present a copy at the Inquiry, nor did they supply us with a copy to present ourselves. Instead BPC chose to publicly implement its vexatious policy against us and refuse to answer our correspondence on this subject. We still have not received a copy of the Parish Plan over three months after our initial request.

 

In the meantime if anyone has a copy of the 2009 adopted Parish Plan, or manages to get hold of a copy, please send it to us as none of the parties indicated above seem willing or able. We can then publish it on BOB for everyone to access along with the other Parish Plan information. If we do receive any answers or documentation we will of course let you know. 

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