This is a Town Council not Westminster

Sutton Coldfield has a Town Council with very limited powers, it is not Westminster or even Birmingham City Council, I campaigned along with SCCA against setting it up in the first place as I feared it would become an expensive talking shop.  When faced with the reality that it was going to happen SCCA saw it as a threat and set out to ensure that it came under their control. They had the financial power and the numbers to field 24 candidates knowing that none of the other groups could do the same. This year the other parties have decided not to split the vote and concentrate on achieving a town council that is run by Residents working together for Residents and councillors should be elected on their merits – not what colour rosette they wear.

The conservatives are up in arms and calling it a shady deal and a choice between Chaos and competence. Their competence is open to discussion when you consider that they could not even organise the ‘Annual Town Meeting’ efficiently.

Those of us who remember the 2016 campaign might well ask what happened to the £200K cap on running costs (2018/19 Budget £480K with over £100K on consultants?) What happened to the Boldmere Playground where £3k was spent on a public consultation the result of which was ignored, why was £90K spent on subsidising the CBSO concert with no record being kept on the number of precept payers who attended. Why is the bulk of the precept sitting in the bank? (It was even described as the ‘Council’s Money’ in the minutes of the Financial and General Purposes Committee Meeting.) Now they are going to employ treasury consultants to tell them how to invest the reserves.

This council is more concerned with knocking Labour and BCC than doing what is best for the Town. They do not run an effective rolling consultation programme; a prime example is the Town Centre Wi Fi which is a total waste of £60K if it ever gets installed – this is justified by the statement that it was in the Conservative 2016 Manifesto – however there is no evidence of need or public demand.

It is not all bad – Some good work has been done, the library, the Town Hall and the community grant programme but so much more could have been done if they had been more open minded and less concerned with playing party politics. We can only hope that come May 3rd we get a more balanced council which everyone can support.

 

Claire Bennett resigns in protest from Sutton Coldfield Town Council

It is a sad day when a person of integrity who cares passionately about her community feels she has no option but to resign due to a lack of respect from the majority group. Having attended a number of council meetings I understand why Claire has taken this action. All Councillors should take note that we expect them to work in the best interests of all residents and not play party politics – plenty of that goes on elsewhere and we do not need it on Sutton Coldfield Town Council

Lots would like to see proper debate

This letter was printed in the Sutton Coldfield Observer on Friday 23rd 2018. I had emailed the leadership of the Town Council privately with my concerns but they chose not to engage and responded via the previous weeks letters page.

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It would seem that if you write to the leadership of the Town Council as a resident expressing concerns you get your reply via the Observer’s Letters page.  As Simon Ward and Olive O’Sullivan have chosen this route I will follow suite with a couple of observations: –

  • Because of Simon Ward’s involvement with the CBSO he should not have chaired the Finance Committee Meeting when the 2018 concert contract was approved!
  • A new council will be elected in May it is unacceptable that major expenditure should be sanctioned when there is no clear, current, mandate from the residents for another CBSO Concert.
  • The council is waiving its financial regulations too often and cannot prove it is getting best value for money when it does not follow a competitive quote/tender process.
  • The confrontational atmosphere at council meetings where a total lack of respect is shown for non-conservative councillors and residents who try to ask questions is very bad practice.

Many residents would prefer to see a revived ‘Sutton Carnival’ instead of another CBSO Concert. This would involve the whole town over two days but maybe this is too ‘down market’ for Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council.

Lots of us would like to see proper debate at committee and council meetings and an end to ‘whipped’ decisions. The town faces many problems with an increasing crime rate, more Anti-Social behavior and rough sleepers on our streets. Let’s see the council taking a lead on some of these issues please.

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Is the Sutton Coldfield Town Council fit for Purpose?

To the Editor, Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer

Dear Sir

I am prompted to write following the letter by Olive O’Sullivan in this week’s edition concerning the legal responsibilities affecting refuse collections. While I have great respect for Olive she completely misses the point. The Town Council had an opportunity to show some leadership by organising a service to assist the residents with taking their rubbish to the tip if they were unable to do so themselves. This is a big problem for the elderly and the disabled. This happened in other parts of Birmingham, why not Sutton? We need the Town Council to respond during a crisis, to stand back and say that it is down to the mismanagement by Birmingham is to make a political point which does not help the residents.

I voted against setting up this Council in the first place in line with the Conservative view at the time because I feared it would be a waste of time and money or a ‘Pig and a Poke’ as stated by our MP. Subsequently I have watched the council being run by the majority group as a ‘One Party State’ with elected Town Councillors being told to toe the party line. As a result, it is neither inclusive or representative of all the town’s residents.  Boldmere in particular has suffered at the hands of the Town Council as out lined by Councillor Long in his resent letter. The reasons for this are unclear but one suspects that it is down to the ward electing only one Conservative Councillor in 2016

The Town Council should be run for the benefit of all residents by the residents and should be open and transparent with decisions being taken in public and not in private meetings of the majority group. I also feel that Councillors should not sit on both BCC and SCTC as there is an obvious conflict of interests.

Neighbourhood planning would be a major benefit to the whole Town, Lichfield is a good example of what can be done when a council takes a positive approach. However, in Sutton this has been blocked at every turn. Maybe the problem is that BCC and many Councillors do not want to see neighbourhood plans implemented as it limits their flexibility. I have also noted that Rob Pocock who was a supporter 2 years ago is now not as vocal on the subject.

One can only hope that next year when new Councillors are elected for the Town and City we will see some changes.  The Town Council should represent all residents and spend the precept on improving the town for their benefit. Currently they seem to be obsessed with not funding additional services for Sutton which fall within the BCC remit. As a result, we suffer with dirty streets, pot holes, limited facilities for the disabled etc. while the bulk of the precept sits in the bank. If they cannot spend it on services which the residents want maybe they should give us all a refund.

Yours Truly

Tony Cannon

Footnote,

The Sutton Observer chose not to publish this letter this week and preferred Clare Horrocks’s rather poor letter in my opinion which does her no credit and picks on one aspect of a well measured letter by Councillor Long last week by launching a personalised attack.

Well, I also am not impressed with the attitude of the ‘Planning Committee’ towards ‘Neighbourhood Planning.’ In fact when I raised the subject at a planning meeting the Chair was extremely rude to me as a resident and conservative party member. (Not anymore – if they had bothered to send me a membership card I would have the pleasure of cutting it up but as they haven’t I can’t. No wonder the Conservative Party is shedding members hand over fist – too many of the executive are out of touch, and remote)

Did the Lichfield Councillors have specialised  training on neighbourhood planning – I doubt it –  like most people I am sure if they were unclear on a subject they sought advice. There are a number of planning officers in the town who offered their services to the Town Council for free and were turned down! This council prefers to waste money on unnecessary training, vanity projects and party political objectives. Roll on 2018, I feel it will be as much of a wake up call for SCCA as the General Election was for the National Party (Though they do not seem to have taken much notice.)

The dangers of Social Media in Public Life

Most public bodies have a Social Media Policy due to the potential for reputation damage to the individual and their organisation if ill-judged or unguarded comments are made. The problem with the internet is that once a post is published it cannot be withdrawn.  Even if the originator deletes it the comment will have already been registered with the other members of that particular group. Chances are it will re-surface at the most inopportune moment to the intense embarrassment of the originator.

A classic example is Emily Thornberry’s ill-judged tweet “Image from #Rochester” which cost her a shadow cabinet position. Admittedly she has now been reappointed as Shadow Foreign Secretary but there were probably not a lot of alternative options. I doubt that she will be invited to support the labour candidate in the Copeland by-election.

As a holder of public office it is very unwise to argue with another user on social media. As many people have found to their cost the watching audience can be vast – ask Sally Bercow who thought she was being ever so clever by asking a “loaded” question and regretted it later to her cost.