New elections – a new beginning?

There are many who join their parish council and do a great job, bringing change and improvements to their village or town. But there are others who see the position of councillor as a way of massaging their own self-importance – an ego trip, and their colleagues sit back and allow them to get on with it. To that end, it’s the residents who suffer.

These are the people who are are willing to ignore the principles they singed up to,
The Nolan Principles.

This site began in 2016 following a crisis in the village of Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, when some on the Parish Council felt they were exempt from the rules that governed them, in particular – openness and transparency.

Since then, the site has received a steady stream of stories from around the country, from people showing their exasperation over the way councils deal with their residents and the problems that arise – many of which are experiencing similar situations to Melbourn. A common complaint is that councils fail to consult their residents. Spending hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of pounds without informing those who will be paying the bill. The other complaint, councils are ruled by a small close-knit group of people who run the council their way.

Public authorities spend money collected from taxpayers, and make decisions that can significantly affect many people’s lives. Access to information helps the public make public authorities accountable for their actions and allows public debate to be better informed and more productive.

The Freedom of Information Act

Has Melbourn Parish Council changed?

Openness and Transparency was the watchword of the ‘new’ Melbourn parish council, which they pledged to implement when they came to office in 2016.

Yet, almost from day one, one councillor, took it upon himself to hold a meeting without informing his new colleagues. This secret meeting held in the name of Melbourn Parish council, was about threats and retribution to others. It was not a great start and it appears it did not stop there.

No, things had not changed, the clique system was still in force. The Car Park report clearly showed this.

This defamatory and biased document, was an attack on the reputation and integrity of people who had nothing to do with the project. The project that cost the parish a great deal of money began in 2015, not as the Car Park report working party would have you believe – 2012.

The report was deliberately composed to avoid any direct criticism of two serving councillors, who were friends and colleagues of some of those that compiled the report.

Criticism of the council’s handling of the project came from several residents who had sat on the committee at the time, but the volume and tone of comments aired were deliberately limited!

Yet the council once again showed their bias, when they gave the two serving councillors who worked on the Car Park project the opportunity to rebut these criticisms and allowed them to point the blame at everybody else for all the troubles. No other member of the Car Park Sub-committee was given the same opportunity to set the record straight.

Pernicious or just plain spiteful?

The report completely ignored the fact that some on the council had violated the rules they had signed up to. The report simply said: “There were few formal records of decisions made by individual councillors and/or officers in the management of the contract”. Over a quarter-of-a-million pounds and there are few records!

The absence of these very important records, was born out by a former councillor who took over the Car Park project. Having asked for the documents, minutes and emails to be made available to show what work was done prior to taking over, he was told none were available. (See Comments by Former Cllr Mike Linnett).

Once again secret meetings took place and the Car Park report just brushed over it.

During the latter part of the project there were clearly some serious acts that can only be described as a malicious attempt to cause maximum embarrassment and problems for those who had taken over the project.

In one instance, there was an unauthorised email sent from an official parish council account. The email was an attempt to withhold payment of a contractual sum of money. The email was sent without the knowledge of the Chairman of the Parish Council or the Chairman of the Car Park Subcommittee and at no time was it discussed by the Sub-committee or full council.

Fortunately for the council, the Project Manager pointed out that it was a contractual payment and must be paid. Had they failed to do so, the council would have found themselves in court for breach of contract. It’s not the first time council correspondence had been sent out without the council knowing about it, but in this instance the pernicious act, would have had very expensive repercussions.

Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in governance and defective decision-making.

The Freedom of Information Act

Why now?

Why is this still important? In the first instance, one thing that is clear is the Grievance situation was borne out of the troubles that beset the Car Park. Some very good people resigned over that report, yet others that were involved with taking the village to the brink of bankruptcy, took the opportunity to gather people around them and blame everyone else.

After the release of the Car Park report, the council stated that if anyone had any question, to make them known. Yet, when the questions received proved to be uncomfortable and embarrassing they declared that, “the council has accepted the report and the matter is now closed”. It is ironic that the previous council Chair had said much the same for the Grievance Report, “the council has rejected the report and the matter is now closed”.

The car park report was long in words and failed to address some very serious fundamental issues. Members took it upon themselves to work behind the backs of their colleagues and act in a way that seriously damaged the reputation of the council and councillors.

In truth, the council were willing to compromise their integrity and ignore the Nolan Principles to protect their own. Had there not been two serving councillors that had worked on the Car Park project, the Car Park working committee would have had a different remit and it most certainly would have had a very different result.

Councils need to understand; it doesn’t end with a simple dismissal “the matter is closed”. Protecting fellow councillors so they can continue working for themselves ignoring the rules, makes them equally guilty. Residents are entitled to the truth!

See also:
Comments by Former Cllr Mike Linnett for more information

Comments from Councillor Regan

Comments from Councillor Hales

A sixty-six-thousand-pound shed…

The most expensive shed … addendum



  • You have to be aware of two important facts here:
    1. Town & Parish Councils are consultees have no more influence on principal council planning decisions than member of the public.
    2.Since the 2010 coalition reform of planning Laws, things have swayed more in favour of developers. If the principal council recommend refusal, the developer can appeal – if the appeal with the Planning inspectorate is successful, the developers costs are payable by the principal council . Planning Officers have to decide whether to take the risk of losing a developer appeal and the likely additional costs to that Council and advise Planning Committee members only.

  • The attitude described here seems to be very similar to one involving Shebbear Parish and Torridge Distict Council where residents concerns over a very ill conceived housing development in development have been totally ignored by the Parish and District Councillors along with the District Council’s Officer’s report which was professionally undertaken and its conclusions have been very carefully considered in the process. It contains sound reasoning behind the recommendation to refuse this application. .There are serious concerns about the processes which have led to the Planning Committee to overturn this recommendation which was given the ‘green light’ subject to possible s106 conditions. In addition a request to the District Council Senior Solicitor for full details of all the reasons based upon recognised planning procedures for departing from it has been ignored despite being signed by 23 residents and others.

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