I RECENTLY attended a full meeting of St Neots Town Council, and the whole experience made me disappointed and angry. It was not a meeting of wise people managing our finances well, but instead resembled a cross between Spitting Image and a meeting of the parish council in The Vicar of Dibley.
During the 10 minutes a month during which voters are allowed to raise issues with the council, a woman questioner wanted to raise concerns about the selling of land where the new pool was supposed to be going.
The mayor, Councillor Gordon Thorpe, clearly didn’t like this and responded in a way that went beyond dismissive and well into being rude.
Although it turned out to be a matter for which the council was not responsible, it was one that only councillors could deal with in their role as trustees.
It was shameful that it took the town clerk to point her in the right direction and offer help. The lady was clearly nervous and was only trying to be heard.
This was preceded by several incidents of back-biting and personality clash-led tit-for-tat spats between councillors, which was very embarrassing to watch. I would remind councillors that their job is to do what’s best for St Neots and its residents, not to score points or use council business to settle scores.
I was shocked by the childish behaviour of certain councillors, but even more so by the mayor. He seemed to allow this behaviour then a councillor was of his own political persuasion but jumped all over it when councillors from another party retorted.
The process of agreeing the St Neots town ‘forward plan’ and agreeing the budget for 2011/12 was a fiasco, with plenty of disorganised chaos thrown in for good measure. There was so much prompting of councillors from the mayor that I was left wondering whether this was a council or merely a forum for the mayor’s own agenda.
When they finally took a vote on the matter, the mayor seemed to be very insistent that the town clerk record that it was voted for unanimously. The reason for that became apparent when it came to agreeing the budget, which included moving funds of considerable value from one pot to another to fund the forward plan.
The mayor was at great pains to point out that they must now therefore agree the budget, as they had unanimously agreed the figures in the forward plan. This seemed an underhand way of doing business.
It’s no wonder the town council spent so much money on solicitors in trying to prevent the public getting answers to Freedom of Information requests.
I hope that in future three things happen: they stop behaving like spoiled children, they start putting the needs of the people of St Neots ahead of political squabbles, and I get confidence that our elected representatives are fit for purpose and capable of managing the town’s finances and affairs.
If the town councillors realised their behaviour was being watched by voters, they might act in a way befitting community leaders, especially with local elections coming later this year.