Council meeting – Monday 25th July   Melbourn in Cambridgeshire

Farce /fɑːs/
a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.


You couldn’t have expressed Mondays
meeting in any other way, but ‘farcical’

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the full council meeting

The full council meeting held on Monday 25th July at the Village Collage was well attended with an estimated audience of around 150. A good number of ‘well-established’ residents from Melbourn attended the meeting as did Mr Ian Dewar the CEO of CPALC and the three members of the independent panel that produced the grievance document on behalf of Melbourn Parish Council.

Mondays meeting was an opportunity for the council to once and for all put an end to these problems, do the right thing release the document and apologise. Yet again, the Chairman felt he and his colleagues had nothing to apologise for.

It is sad to see that the parish council have now become a laughing stock, for I am certain some of the residents that had attended Mondays meeting with open minds, went away feeling these people were truly unfit to be on the council.

However, it is important to note that not all councillors have been in support of the Chairman, a few have struggled to bring this sorry saga to a proper conclusion, and in some instances have been ostracised for their troubles.

As a resident of Melbourn village I would like to express my gratitude for all their efforts and I am truly sorry they have had to suffer what can only be described as intimidation and bullying.


Below is a synopsis of the meeting held on Monday 25 July. It has not been taken out of context, but highlights the important points that pertain to the grievance document. The italic text below are direct quotes and are in order of discussion.

‘The recording of this meeting was made under the Local Government Parliamentary Act 6th August 2014, which gives the public the right to film and digitally report all public meetings of local government bodies.’

The person accused in the document has not been named here. The name will be made available as soon as the grievance document has been handed over under the Freedom of Information Act.


On the agenda were a number of items relating to the grievance document, including the ‘Questions to the Council’, which was presented at the full council meeting on 27th June. In addition, a number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act had also been sent and were on the agenda as further correspondence.

The first main item on the agenda to be discussed was – correspondence from 27th June.

  1. Questions to Melbourn Parish Council – regarding the grievance document
  2. Reasons for Resignations of Councillors

The Chairman Councillor Bob Tulloch suggested the parish council create a working party made up of all Parish Councillors and that they would decide how to respond to the correspondence. However, it was pointed out by one councillor that the council had already agreed that there was a conflict of interest given that a majority of the councillors had sent letters of support in favour of the person accused in the document. In addition, these were the same councillors who had voted to reject the grievance document and therefore it would be inappropriate for these councillors to be involved with the working party. Nevertheless, a majority of the councillors voted to create a working party.


Disclosable pecuniary interests
This item was put on the agenda by the Mr Ian Dewar. However, the Chairman of Melbourn Parish Council announced that this was a procedural matter and since one councillor was absent they would discuss it at a later date when all councillors were present. Following a long discussion, two parish councillors expressed their concern that this was a serious matter and felt that since the chief executive of CAPALC was in the audience he would be best placed to give advice on the subject, should questions arise.

As such Ian Dewar was then invited to speak about his letter.

He informed the meeting that his letter was on the agenda because he had concerns as to the way the parish council was being conducted. This included the council’s refusal to discuss the report on bullying and harassment (the grievance document).

In addition, he had “concerns about certain things that were happening within the council that were not in compliance with the legislation for parish and town councils”. He had made his letter an open letter as he “did not want it to end up confidential and ignored and because within the localism act certain things were actually a criminal offence and things were happening within the parish council that he was not happy about”.

He also had concerns regarding the Clerk. “The Clerk had contacted him about quite severe intimidation and threatening behaviour and he felt her job was on the line, which is why he had brought the letter personally to the council”.

He went on to say that, “… the Chairman didn’t like the Clerks minutes (minutes from the full council meeting held on Monday the 27th June) and so he (the Chairman) edited them … your own Standing Orders state you’re a councillor not just the Chairman and councillors can only put up as a matter of accuracy and procedure in the minutes, not change them and so your own Standing Orders have been broken and some of the regulations have also been broken”.

Asked if the (grievance) document came under the Freedom of information act, Ian Dewar said “I have checked and the Freedom of Information Act does allow for the report to come forward, because the council had buried it and is now considered to be dealt with, the report can be submitted to the Clerk for publication, following a few changes under the Data protection act. … mistakes are being made and the council need to address these. I noticed at the last full session (27th June) when everyone had left the room (for a closed session) the Chairman did not leave the Chair and continued to Chair the meeting which was inappropriate!”

Asked by a councillor how these problems could be dealt with, the response from Ian Dewar was clear, “the legislation is very simple, these are offences that could be reported to the Police or you (the council) need to deal with it yourself, or councillors resign.

…There’s one other thing on the agenda that I will make reference to. The clerk had approached me about a press release, prepared by the Chairman”.

At this point the Chairman interjected and said that he had “put it among many of my fellow councillors, I didn’t do that alone”.

Ian Dewar pointed out “that is not ‘procedurally’ correct and that they had gone through the back door. What has been happening here is that there has been pressure from the Chair to do things not following the correct procedure”.

The Chairman went on to say “well were doing it properly tonight.”

One councillor also pointed out that not all councillors had been approached, or were aware the press release existed.


The next stage of the procedure was almost surreal. The Chairman announced that they would discuss the ‘press release’, at which point he stood up in order to move to the front of the table! As he passed close to one councillor he apologised saying he was sorry he was intimidating her. Another councillor took umbrage to this inappropriate remark and complained. “It was a joke councillor” said the Chairman!

Walking amongst the audience, the Chairman went on to explain how the minutes should be produced.

“Can I explain something. Council minutes are legal documents; they can be brought to court and actually used as evidence. For instance, by an architect friend of mine, having some trouble with some land, he had to go back to the council minutes 40 years ago from a village and actually those were brought in and the land registry modified them because they are legal documents.

What you don’t need to have in council minutes … put it the other way they have to be, what was proposed, what were the main points, what was the vote. That is very very terse. Now Mr Ian Dewar actually suggested to us a good way of doing this. By actually keeping these minutes terse, because they may well end up in court in 40 years’ time, what you don’t want is ‘he said’, ‘she said’.

The minutes came back from the Clerk and they were very much in that, it’s like ‘he said’, it was like a script from East Enders.

The minutes legally are the Clerks and nobody else’s, that I recognize. What I did was send back to the Clerk with my suggestions … she took those suggestions on board and published them.

At this point Ian Dewar said that this was not true and that the Clerk had contacted him “because she felt under threat from you to put out the edited minutes, because you had actually threatened her with financial loss after the meeting and had threatened to help to lose her house and her children. … you went beyond what was reasonable, you actually produced in 10 minutes what the Clerk had produced and edited them. You say what you like, but the Clerk was under pressure to follow what you were doing because she was afraid for her job, that’s what I got and I gave her advice to let those minutes go through.”

One councillor followed this with a question to the Chairman “If Mr Dewar had that information why we weren’t we all made aware of it, if we are to have the finger pointed at as we didn’t know?”.

Ian Dewar responded by saying “I had the Clerk on the phone to me in tears because she was worried about her job, because she wasn’t doing what the Chairman wanted”.

The councillor came back with “We should have all of known that shouldn’t we.”

Ian Dewar “The minutes should have come to the meeting tonight and you should have said are they a true record of the meeting ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The Clerk has produced a set of minutes which has been excluded from the meeting. That’s not right”

The councillor then asked “Is that why the Clerk is in tears then?”

Ian Dewar “The Clerk is in tears because she knows I have actually said something she didn’t want me to say. The reality is there is too much friction going on in your council and you all should be aware of it. You’ve all got good intentions, but the way you are doing it is just awful. And some of it is not legal.”


Continued on ‘Council meeting – 25th July continued’ (click here)
 
 

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