Another month; another heated Parish Council meeting…
Councillors present: Cllr Graham Parkin, Cllr Evonne Parkin, Cllr Jim Coyle, Cllr Emma Stevenson, Cllr Mick Brough, Cllr Paul Matthews, Cllr Kevin Kavaliunas, Cllr Philip Smith, Cllr Phil Upton
Apologies were received from: Cllr Clive Moesby and Cllr Rose Bulfin.
South Normanton Parish Council is no stranger to controversy; however, even by their standards the April meeting was unique.
Cllr Graham Parkin, chairing his final meeting ahead of the AGM, opened by patronising everyone present as he addressed the public gallery. “Can you give your best behaviour to the people in this meeting like you did last month? You were very good last time.”
Sadly the audience didn’t share the same opinion of many of the gathered councillors and laid straight into trying to get answers to the never ending list of questions the Parish Council refuse to answer in public.
This is the 12 minutes prior to the video that was uploaded previously.Please share far and wide to show people just how the Labour Party in South Normanton are using your Council Tax.There is no openness or accountability in their actions and it is upto us as the general public to send a message on 4th May 2017 by voting for me.As your County Councillor I will challenge this behaviour and make sure local residents are put first. The current Labour County Councillor just sits there and let's this continue because he is part of the problem – I will not just say nothing as he does.#Vote4Change #Working4You
Posted by Martin Cheung for South Normanton & Pinxton on Sunday, 16 April 2017
Local resident, Sarah Clipston, asked, “Is it a fact that Cllr Brough proposed and recommended that an alleged offer of £10,000 was to be paid to the former clerk and seconded by Cllr E Stevenson or do both Councillors categorically deny this? And, also, was this to be funded by their own personal resources or the public’s money?”
As is all too commonplace in South Normanton the stock answer was for the questioner to leave their details so that the Clerk could respond in writing, prompting one of last month’s questioners, Debbie Marshall-Curtis, to follow on; “It’s not really a question, it’s just a comment from the question I asked last month, so thank you for the answer to my last question. However, it did not address the issues that I raised at the meeting last month and I feel now that it is time that these matters are independently investigated.”
With barely a handful of the large public gathering having access to an agenda, a further resident asked, “What expressions of interests Emma [Stevenson] and Mick [Brough] were referring to [when making declarations of interest at the start of the meeting].”
“I have a question for the Proper Office if she doesn’t mind responding please.” N-E Derbyshire & Bolsover District Lib Dem Secretary, David Hancock, raised a further question regarding declarations of interests (or apparent lack thereof) during the previous month’s meeting. “It has been brought to my attention that Councillor Barnes last month voted in the issue of the skip [tendering process] which is a company that his father [a councillor at North East Derbyshire District Council] works for and has as a declaration of his own; it was purely a question as to whether a dispensation had been granted.”
Ross Shipman, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Bolsover challenged the Council over its recently distributed newsletter. “I have seen,” he said, flourishing the A5 flyer, “because it’s in my hand here, that South Normanton Parish Council have produced a newsletter during the pre-election period running up to the County elections in May.
“Now I am sure that many of you have been in elections and fought them before and should know that this sort of stuff shouldn’t be going out. It’s actually got a date on it here of April 2017. Purdah starts at the end of March and [you’re] basically admitting that it’s gone out during purdah on the newsletter.
“Pre-election official guidance says ‘The pre-election restrictions are governed by Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1982 as amended in 1983; Essentially councils should “not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party”.’ Now, obviously, South Normanton is made up of one political party.
“What this means in practice: Publicity is defined as ‘any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.’ The first question to ask is ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test.
“When making your decision, you should consider the following: You should not produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial… Now we’re all reasonable people here; and on Facebook many people are disgusted that this has gone out during the last few weeks.”
Local resident, and former Labour Councillor, Margaret Upton observed: “You’re getting a very good membership coming to the Parish Council meetings. Why is it that we can’t have copies of the minutes. I have requested them today so there is some for members of the public who wish to follow what is going on, there is none here – I am sure that can be answered now and not in letter form in about another month.” For the first time all evening a question was answered directly; as the Clerk advised that minutes and agendas were available from the Parish Council offices and that every single one had been collected. Mrs Upton countered that simply indicated “that there is not enough put out now more people are requesting them.”
The Clerk responded that 30 copies had been put out. Another resident said that “the reason they had gone was because he had cleared out the slot on the day of the meeting.”
“Are they not available on the website?” Another resident asked; to which the Council’s response was that the website was not up and running yet.
Ross Shipman then challenged that statement; as the Parish Newsletter explicitly stated that “the Council wish to let you know that the basic website is up and running.”
Cllr Graham Parkin interjected that he “was talking to this lady here” and that Ross Shipman had “had his turn.”
Not allowing the Chair to dodge the issue, the question was then taken up by another resident, Callum Rennick. “It states on the newsletter that the website is up and running, why does it state that if it’s not running?” However, the stock answer returned and Cllr Parkin stated that the Clerk would respond by letter. To which Mr Rennick voiced the question on everyone’s lips – “Can’t [it] be answered now so that everyone present knows?”
Another resident asked, in the interests of transparency, “Can the responses that you give to an individual be published on the website?” Which received a round of applause from the gathered public.
Cllr Phil Upton asked the rest of South Normanton Parish Council: who had approved the parish newsletter that was recently sent out to local residents; because he as a Parish Councillor had not been told about it.None of the other Councillors would respond to Cllr Upton's question.If one of their own Councillors are being kept in the dark, who knows what they are keeping from South Normanton residents.This behaviour from Labour needs stopping. Vote for change on 4th May 2017 and give me your vote.Share the video and spread the word.#Vote4Change #Working4You
Posted by Martin Cheung for South Normanton & Pinxton on Friday, 14 April 2017
As the public questions closed, with only two questions having been answered, the Council progressed to the formal part of the meeting. However, Cllr Phil Upton asked who had approved the production of the alleged purdah-breaching newsletter, given that he’d never seen it prior to its being publicly distributed. Unsurprisingly, Cllr Upton received no reply.
Members of the public began to heckle the Chair; asking why the Council refused to answer even one of their own members. Then, in complete breach of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, the Chair ordered the public from the meeting, causing further anger among those present as he and the Clerk refused to acknowledge the illegality of the pronouncement; instead opting to cancel the meeting without taking any vote from the remaining councillors to do so.
Martin Cheung, Liberal Democrats candidate for South Normanton & Pinxton said: “If one of their own Councillors is being kept in the dark, who knows what they are keeping from South Normanton residents. This behaviour from Labour needs stopping and I hope the people of South Normanton & Pinxton put their trust in me to hold Labour to account.”
After the meeting local residents were up in arms at what had happened.
Robert Ball described the Parish Council as being “just like Putin’s Russia.”
Other residents were shouting “We voted you in, we will vote you out!”
If you do not think South Normanton Parish Council represent your interests any more; please sign our online petition by CLICKING HERE.