Residents Annual Parish Meeting 2021

Posted on 18th April, 2021

 

 

UPDATE 05MAY21: The draft minutes and any actions decided at this resident meeting are noted on the BPC agenda but have not been released to the public, only to councillors? (Min 342,13,11)

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BOB has been told that this year's Annual Parish Meeting (APM), arranged for residents to raise issues and vote on them, was so under the radar this year, that only two non-councillors, out of over 1,000 residents, attended last Monday's meeting!

 

This is unsurprising, as over the years rather than encourage, engage and respond to any public questions, Bleadon Parish Council (BPC) has highjacked these specific resident meetings and effectively turned them into council trumpet blowing events, with little to no public interaction expected, or presumably wanted. Councillors' own annual meeting, usually held in May, is confusingly called the 'Annual Meeting of the Parish Council' (APMC), where residents are only allocated up to 15 minutes to speak before the meeting starts, as is the case with usual BPC meetings.

 

Did anyone see a councillors' call for residents to submit agenda items, like in 2018? BPC's own councillor meetings were advertised on a non-council social media group for the last two months, so why not the meeting BPC specifically arranged for residents? BOB has been told that some residents managed to find this year's agenda in time, only to discover that the Zoom link didn't work, and so they were prevented from attending their own residents' meeting.

 

As far as BOB is aware, the only BPC requirement for annual resident meetings, is for the Chairman to arrange a meeting 'space' between 01 March and 01 June and to chair the meeting; no councillors or clerk required. It now seems that residents are no longer required to attend either! Conversely, Norfolk District Council states:

The National Association of Local Councils, "NALC advises that parish councils 'should endeavour to secure the largest possible turn out at a parish meeting so that the local electorate, ... can debate and democratically decide any business which legitimately features on the agenda and further decide if a poll on any question arising is required.'‟

Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, states: 

"NALC is of the view that a parish affair could be any local issue, activity, subject matter which specifically affects a particular parish and which a parish meeting may wish to discuss, debate and potentially influence." 

The council's own quarterly newsletter (p4), published last month, implied that this year's annual meeting may be abandoned, despite BPC purchasing "lT equipment for each Councillor so that they might fully participate in ... Zoom Meetings (p7).', telling residents:

"... it would seem [that government restrictions will] continue for a few months yet which in itself puts the holding of the annual parish meeting into some doubt. lt would normally be held by Bleadon in the month of April - it was abandoned last April - however legally a council has until the 31- May to hold such a meeting. Watch this space!" (BVN117) Where was the council's update publicity confirming that the meeting would happen on Zoom? 

Consequently, BOB was not aware that this meeting was going ahead, and so was unable to attend, but just look at the agenda, found on the BPC website after the meeting was held. Residents were 'allocated' an agenda item that came after councillors had raised and discussed their own annual reports'. How can this be called a democratic, resident focussed meeting? Why couldn't BPC publish these reports before the meeting, then encourage residents to talk about what they considered important at Monday's meeting?

 

If councillors are advised that they 'should endeavour to secure the largest possible turn out' at a resident's parish meeting, and 'legally a council has until the 31- May to hold such a meeting', why did councillors push through a meeting at the beginning of April, with little publicising and without a call for residents' agenda items, presumably knowing that this would lead to little to no resident attendance? How is this an open, transparent and democratic process?

 

Perhaps, BPC didn't want to hear the concerns that residents raise in their own meetings, unattended by councillors? Perhaps BPC didn't want to openly and transparently:

  • discuss the barriers BPC has put in place restricting residents attending meetings this year (non-publication of agendas, some agenda quietly posted on the BPC website but not on noticeboards and vice versa, zoom links not working, etc.);
  • or to discuss BPC's removal of all public Finance, Planning and Open Spaces committee meetings in favour of closed, undocumented working groups;
  • or discuss the lack of timely access to reports, contracts, etc. especially those relating to BPC's financial expenditure, contract and accounts;
  • or discuss the funded but undocumented BPC projects that are considered 'independent', e.g. Neighbourhood Development Plan, Bleadon in Bloom, etc.?
  • All 9 councillors live in the village which is only a small fraction of the parish, 3 councillors live next door to each other, 4 are only contactable via email. How about discussing a more representative cross section of Bleadon residents on the council, or at least allocating certain areas of Bleadon to each councillor, thereby ensuring more inclusive 'parish' rather than 'village' representation, as indicated by Weston Town Council

Perhaps BPC believes that councillors' current closed approach towards decision making and expenditure is 'for the greater good'? Thank goodness it's not Hot Fuzz Style

 

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