Thursday, 26 May 2011

A sad day

It is with great regret that I observe that Cllr Sam Harmer - our 19 year old Councillor has decided not to take up his seat following the Chronicle's article about him a fortnight ago.  I tried to persuade him to stay on - however he took the understandable decision that he did not want to expose his family to the risk of more publicity.

I very much agree with the letter published in last week's Chron where a member of our community pointed out just how awful it was to have a 19 year old put off from representing the community by a former Councillor who seemingly was trying to get his own back after failing to be elected.

In Sam's own words - 'I can't believe that someone would take time out of their life to try and make my life harder.'  Quite.

The Town Meeting - FTC

We had the Town meeting on Tuesday night.  It was an interesting meeting.  I gave a presentation on the  state of affairs at the Town Council.  I pointed out that FTC's spending plans for 2011-12, as left to us by the outgoing Town Council are unsustainable.  We are budgeted to spend around £157k.  The Council tax will bring in just under £115k.  There is about £8k of other income potentially available - however around £34.4k will have to come from reserves.

Typically, and leaving aside spending of a capital nature, one would anticipate bringing in perhaps 5-10% more in income than one would plan to spend.  In other words we are about £30k short in income from where we should be with spending plans like this.  I have to say I opposed the meaningless reduction in the Council Tax last year which reduced the Council Tax on a Band D property by £2.77 (yes that is £2.77 in the year) but had the net effect of denying the Council £10,000 of income.  I also showed how FTC compared with our neighbouring parish and town councils.

I also pointed out that FTC had the power to spend up to c£45k on general projects for the wellbeing of Frodsham and its community - however something less than 10% had been budgeted for and only 3% of that figure had actually been spent in 2010-11.

Interestingly some of the old guard ex and existing councillors carped from the side lines and questioned some of the comments made.  I had the answers to all their questions - and the members of the community present I believe were very supportive of the approaches being suggested.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The biter bit?

The Town Council meeting was an interesting affair last night.  It was the first time that the newly elected Councillors had a chance to meet up after the seismic change brought about by the decisive result in our Town Council election.

From 2007-2011 Frodsham Town Council was dominated by Labour members/former Labour members.  Depending on how you count, and whether you include former members or not there were either 7 or 8 of them out of the 16 members. They had a strangle hold on Council business.  After our elections there are now 2 Labour members/former members - 1 a current member and 1 a former member.

They decided that they wanted to challenge me - which is their entitlement, although I have to say from my point of view what they did was unnecessary and unedifying and breaks the tradition that Mayor makings should be unpartisan.  Certainly I never dreamed of disturbing the Mayor makings of my political opponents.  I have always wished them well even if I had been excluded from the deliberations in selecting the candidates!

First I had Cllr Pammi Taylor suggesting that the role of Chairman of the Council and Mayor be split - she was stated that she was worried about the time I could devote to the role.  During the debate on the appointment of a Mayor the various candidates, by tradition say nothing.  I kept my mouth shut until I was voted into office.  Once in the chair I was able to advise Cllr Taylor that I had advised Cllr Mike Jones, the Leader of CWaC a week ago that I did not want a senior role at CWaC this time as I wanted to devote my efforts to turning the Town Council around.  Pammi looked surprised and somewhat stunned.

Then I had Cllr Kyle McGregor have a go.  I proposed and had passed almost unanimously the vote of thanks to the outgoing Councillors.  I thought it had been unanimous - but Kyle chimed out to say he had abstained.  He explained he had abstained on the pretext that he couldn't support the assertions made in the Frodsham First election materials.  He used stronger language than that which lead me having to warn him about the risks he ran regarding defamation. (Cllrs do not have carte blanche to say anything they want in Council meetings) I also advised him about the risks of being reported to the Standards Committee if he persisted.

After the meeting he and I continued our exchanges of views.  He and Pammi told me that they took exception to a number of things that were publicised which included:

1 - pointing out who were members of the Labour party; and who had nominated whom in the elections;
2 - the issue of the 'secret meetings' - he told me they were just meetings of colleagues who had been friends for years;
3 - pointing out that FTC at the direction of the old Council had paid monies to Whitby High School; and
4 - pointing out that the support I had received regarding the defibrillators had been begrudging.

So what are the facts?
1 - The membership of the Labour party information was drawn from what the candidates had previously stated and from their Declarations of Members Interests;
2 - Over the years we have seen these gatherings, have been told about them, have witnessed their effects, and one of my colleagues had to complain about a formal meeting being scheduled and she wasn't told that it was convening;
3 - The Council's accounts state clearly that Whitby High School received monies from FTC; and
4 - The question of support regarding the defibrillators is a matter of personal opinion - but there are others who share my view.

Kyle was also somewhat troubed that I had chosen to reserve some of my comments to election time and had not raised them in the Council chamber.  Well, first, that is my right.  Second, choosing your moment is part of politics.  Third I only became aware of the Whitby High School issue on 26 April 2011 - during the 'purdah period' when one is advised against raising overtly political or contentious issues - so I did.

So where does all this take us?  You judge - are they just sore losers?  Democracy and debate is alive and kicking - but as I advised the members last night - respect for each other needs to be centre stage.  I do hope they play the 'ball' not the 'man.'

Monday, 16 May 2011

Mayor of Frodsham

Many thanks to everyone who voted to put me in the position to be Mayor of Frodsham - I promise I will do my best to represent the community to the best of my ability.

It was deeply humbling to become Mayor of Frodsham - it was never an honour I anticipated having this side of 105 - however the election results meant that there were, in reality, few choices if the Frodsham First manifesto is to be implemented. 

The hard work starts now and we are looking at our structures to see if we can streamline the Council and become more efficient and crucially more effective. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Preparing for action and watching what could be a sore loser?

Well the dust is settling both at Cheshire West and Chester Council and Frodsham Town Council.  After the hard work of the election campaigns, the drama of the counts we are now at the hard work of establishing our new Councils.  As you'd expect at CWaC much of the work takes place behind the scenes.  At Frodsham Town Council those campaigning on the Frodsham First common manifesto pledged not to have secret behind the scenes meeetings - so our discussions establishing the new council, and the new council arrangements will be made in public on Monday 16 May.  I have to say this is in stark contrast to the behaviour of the old Council where those controlling what went on would regularly meet in private deliberately excluding a number of us from their discussions. I've mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating, that we know that a sizable number of the old Council met after the last meeting on 26 April to decide who they'd like to fill the position of Mayor and Deputy Mayor deliberately excluding 4 of us from the discussions.  This was, in my view, very wrong - but also typical of what we've had to put up with over the last 4 years.

Nothing can take away from the tremendous vote of support and mandate for change we received from the voters.  Unfortunately it would appear that not everyone is pleased by what has happened.

I am aware of 'noises off' that suggest in some way that one of the defeated candidates should not have lost.
I am also aware of one of the former Councillors very publically having ago at one of the candidates who was elected unopposed.

Having put up with poor behaviour towards me and others  from an unrepresentative Council for 4 years I am not surprised by this behaviour but I am disappointed.

Well lets spell things out in simple language.
Every Frodsham resident had an opportunity to stand for election.
Two of our wards only had enough candidates to fill the vacancies.
In the two wards where there were elections every candidate had the same opportunity to put his or her position to the electorate.  The results were clear and unequivocal.

The Conservative candidates topped the polls in East and South wards by some considerable margin. 
Next came the independents who stood for election on the Frodsham First manifesto.  Then in each ward came another candidate who was not part of the Frodsham First team who was also elected. These candidates were a considerable distance behind the Frodsham First candidates.  Then followed the defeated candidates.

In East I topped the poll with 634 votes, the Frodsham First candidates had 507, 506 and 504 and the unaligned independent Graham Bondi was elected with 439.  The defeated candidates polled 415, 319 and 116.  The result was not even close.

Similarly in South Lynn Riley topped with 599 followed by Sara on 505 - both stood as Conservatives.  Fran on the Frodsham First ticket had 369 votes.  Also elected was the UKIP candidate on 260 votes.  The defeated candidate had 241 votes.

Every candidate had the same chance to campaign, to put his or her position to the Council.  The people have spoken - accept it.

I think the real issue and the explanation for the less than generous behaviour by certain of the defeated candidates lies in 4 factors:
  • the personalities involved;
  • the shock and bereavement understandibly felt in the defeat; 
  • the failure to appreciate that the old Council was unrepresentative of the people given that all candidates were elected unopposed in 2007.  Frodsham is not/was not political in the following proportions 8 Lab; 2 Con and 6 Independents; and
  • the party politics involved.
I hope what we have achieved will be recognised and supported by everyone - we have restored independence to Frodsham.  Overwhelmingly now the majority of the new Councillors are not members of any political party. 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Election Results - Frodsham


Wow!

We had great results in Frodsham! Lynn and I were elected with 58% of the votes cast to CWaC... And the 12 of us who are part of the Frodsham First campaign were all elected to the 16 man Town Council with over 66% of the votes cast! We have our mandate for change.

Thank you for the support.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Election day in Frodsham (and elsewhere)

It is election day - please go and vote - ideally for your Conservative candidates - but please go and vote anyway.

I've been touring the polling stations with Lynn Riley my co-candidate for Frodsham for the Cheshire West and Chester Ward of Frodsham.  We have been well received.

Inevitably we have had a few questions posed of us including...

How many leaflets have you delivered?
Well the Conservatives have delivered in respect of the Borough Council election:
  1. an InTouch to all of Frodsham in March (prior to the election being called);
  2. our Election Address to all of Frodsham - at varying times during April depending where in Frodsham you live; and
  3. an eve of poll card to 75% of Frodsham.

We are not aware of any other party campaigning actively.

With regard to the Town Council elections which are only taking place in Frodsham South and East the Frodsham First Campaign which is a joint campaign of 9 Independent Candidates and 3 Conservatives (of which 3 Independents and 1 Conservative are standing in East and 1 Independent and 2 Conservatives are standing in South) have delivered:
  1. a leaflet to every house in East and South; and
  2. a letter and further leaflet in East
We are not aware of anyone else actively campaigning in South although others have campaigned in East.

Some have commented that they would have liked to have received more information from other candidates.  I agree - I would welcome a debate with my political rivals.