I used to believe sincerely in the power of local democracy, so much so that I became a Parish Councillor.
But after only a very short time I realised that the ego’s of the few were ruining the lives of the many and despite my protestations, anger and frustration there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. From the inside.
I therefore resigned and decided to launch this website to let you know what your local council is doing with your money, to your village, in your name.
To many, Parish Council’s are dull and powerless and whilst they are certainly the former they are definitely not the latter, and thanks to the Localism Bill their range of influence considers to grow.
Sadly the aptitude of those that wield that power does not grow at the same rate.
On yourlocalcouncil.org I will be bringing you an alternative view of how – in the first instance – Batheaston Parish Council works and how it attempts to hide those workings from you.
I resigned (see next posting for my resignation letter) because my colleagues preferred to work in private, shying away from publicising any of their machinations – with one possible exception – the bridge (more of that later).
They have not told you about the character assessment they carried out on behalf of B&NES, they have not told you about their plans to move the football pitch to the (oft flooded) water meadows; they have not told you about their plans to take over the toilet block in the car park; they have not told you about their plans to spend up to £50,000 on the pavement outside the shops without going out to tender.
We will also tell you about your council chairman writing in his official capacity to support yet another judicial review of the village hall plan, despite this not being sanctioned by the council and therefore not appearing on any council minutes.
But more of all this later.
On this site we hope to make you aware of just what is being done in your name. Watch this space, subscribe for updates and check back often.
Last December I became just one of four councillors – two elected and two co-opted – who stood down from Batheaston Parish Council.
I cannot speak on behalf of the others, but this was the letter I sent to my colleagues to explain why:
It is with a heavy heart that I proffer my resignation as a Batheaston Parish Councillor.
When I joined the Parish Council – sadly without the benefit of an election – I honestly thought that I could help make a difference, but it was not to be.
I have watched and listened in amazement at the council’s apparent disregard for the electorate it is meant to serve, choosing to keep decisions close and avoiding any form of meaningful communication.
I thought when I joined and offered to set up the council’s representation on Facebook and Twitter that the reluctance I encountered was more as a result of ignorance than of not wishing to tell people what was going on.
But the Parish Council has chosen not to communicate and didn’t even mention its opposition to the Village Hall, missing an opportunity to put it in the Parish bulletin.
More recently, having agreed to host a public meeting to make residents aware of B&NES recommended sites for more housing in the village, the council then shied away and decided to leave it until B&NES announced it themselves later this year.
In fact I cannot think of any occasion when the council has taken advantage of the agenda item to issue a press release.
The bridge may well be an exception.
On several occasions I have been told that the proposal to move the football field has been discussed with the football team, but each time I have approached the captain of the team he maintains no such consultation has taken place.
Democracy is accountable and needs to be reported on to make it so.
Finally I have read in amazement the minutes of several meetings that I have attended and recollect in a completely different way to those recorded.
Trying to get them changed is also a complete waste of time, serving only to cause an unhealthy closing of ranks between the clerk and the chairman.
None of this can be allowed to go on unrecorded. The people of Batheaston really need to know what is being done on their behalf and to that end I intend to publicise the machinations of this council – good and bad.
It may well be that you will see more of me, rather than less, as a result, but if I were to remain a parish councillor I would be bound by your rules, your interpretation of register of interests etc.
This way, I will write about what I see and what I hear and will not be answerable to this council’s flawed and seemingly unaccountable “democratic process”.