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Sutton Bridge Parish Council - Latest News


May 42016

Notes on the Sutton Bridge Parish Council Meeting held at
The Curlew Centre on 26th April 2016

(The only thing of significance that came out of the March meeting was that Cllr Brewis assured us that he'd be keeping an eye on DONG developments – so we can all rest easy in our beds at night)

Absent Councillors: M Booth, N Fenton, D Cook

As usual comments from the Public Gallery are recorded in blue.

We have been attending these meetings for seven years now and reporting on the discussions. During that time the quality of debate has gradually improved. However one particular councillor does not seem to pay regard to good manners and procedures, often interrupting speakers with mumbled comments. As members of the public we attend because we wish to know about decisions made on our behalf, particularly in matters concerning large developments involving complicated planning details. It makes it very difficult to follow a report when that person continually interrupts in an out of order sort of way. It makes it difficult for the Chairman and his excellent clerk to conduct the meeting in an orderly and efficient manner.

Public Forum

Mr Blundell wished to report that Dong contractor lorries were speeding at a great rate up and down East Bank with huge chunks of wood; it these were destined for the marsh we might have cause for concern,

4. Police Matters

• Acts of vandalism on the increase. Later in the meeting the Chairman suggested that vandalism came in peaks & troughs – we seemed currently to be peaking.

• The goal posts in Memorial Park are a major problem. Youngsters using them were creating a disturbance and were not responding in a civilised manner – they would be moved on, asserted the two police reps who arrived in the nick (as it were) of time.

• The picnic table which was a meeting place for disaffected youth had been vandalised so it had been removed. In retaliation, it was suggested, they had dumped massive amounts of rubbish in what was their meeting place.

• It was agreed that the picnic table would not be reinstated and that the Football Club would be asked to remove the goal posts during the close season.

• Terrorising of a member of the public on the Falklands Estate. Though the PC is happy to assist, it's not within their remit. The Housing Association said it was an issue for SHDC; SHDC said it was up to the Housing Association; the police are involved. All very hush-hush.

• A question had been asked about the use of the new police bikes. Police reps said that their beat had been extended due to cutbacks and that while in fine weather it would be nice to spend a whole day cycling between Sutton Bridge, Long Sutton, Gedney and Lutton it would probably not be best use of their time. They pointed out that vandalism was not just a problem in Sutton Bridge.

• It was a problem in all these areas and they were spread thinly; they were currently doing shifts in Sutton Bridge but that would not go on. Cllr P Scarlett proposed that the PC write to the Police Chief asking that surveillance be sustained.

• The usual advice was offered – to report acts of vandalism and hand over CCTV footage which, it seemed, the Curlew Centre had failed to do so far. When miscreants were found they could be put on the route towards an ASBO.

• Cllr P Scarlett raised the issue of lorrymen parking in laybys leaving their excrement in the hedgegrows – a Health & Safety issue? In the past when lorry firms had been contacted the disgusting practice had abated. Cllr Scarlett said that the lorries seemed to come from all sorts of firms – impossible to keep track.

• There was a continuing problem of bicycles being ridden on pavements. The Police Reps were thanked for their efforts. They were clearly under pressure.

Lack of funding has meant that lack of police coverage is further evidence of what is effectively the continuing Government destruction of public services...

We understand that lorry-drivers are given an allowance to park in authorised lorry parks with sanitary facilities; they park in laybys and pocket the allowance. Perhaps all companies should be asked to stop giving the allowance?

5. Chairman's Remarks

• Much of what Cllr Grimwood had had it in mind to say had already been covered.

• The War Memorial in Arnie Broughton Walk had been severely vandalised. His offer of a £50 reward for identification of the vandals still stood. There was one name.

• He was very disappointed by the turnout for the litter pick last weekend. Three residents turned up on Saturday and one on Sunday. Was this evidence that people didn't really care about Sutton Bridge?

The litter pick was advertised on the front page of Bridgewatch and residents on the Anti-Incinerator email list were circulated a week in advance.

6. Clerk's Report

• There is an issue re parking in Stagecoach bus-stops.

• Bridge Hotel owner on holiday – the Clerk to continue pressing. It was suggested that somebody may be living inside though the ever-vigilant Chairman has checked the locks.

• DONG have apparently proposed a £10m contribution to an East Coast Community Fund.

• The Marina – trenching for cables & water are happening. River side operations will begin on the first of June

There is an unsubstantiated rumour that the owner of Bridge Hotel is proposing to keep the façade and convert to apartments.

After the Clerk had reported on the Marina progress Cllr Brewis was heard to say, "Good!" This response is totally at variance to his previous objections and we wonder what Mr Brandon-King, who has written many anti-Marina letters to the local press, would have to say about this hypocrisy.

7. County Councillor Reports

Something incoherent from Cllr Brewis.

8. Financial Matters

g. 3 Year Budget. Projects could be planned ahead and reserves built up. It would be a living document which the Clerk would update on a quarterly basis. Cllr S Booth suggested a note 'Last updated...' be included in the document.

There was considerable bonhomie about the possibility of the Clerk running off with the cash but all seems to be in order though it's beyond the wit of those not in the know to make much sense of all the figures. Is it significant that councillors not on the Finance Committee had no comments or questions?

9. Correspondence

(ii) An email dated 3/4 from Dong said that consents for the Race Bank Wind Farm were not yet given. The PC would be kept informed of progress.

10. Planning Matters

H18-0293-16 Hoarding @ 189 Bridge Road – a retrospective application. The hoarding is already in place; the Chairman said it was 'not in keeping' with the appearance of SB; Cllr P Scarlett said it should be taken down forthwith. Cllr Brewis scathingly pointed out that signs that he objected to had been allowed on the A17 so what grounds would there be for opposing this hoarding? He required his abstention to be noted.

H18-0145-16 Golf Club dwellings. Previous refusal had been overruled. This led to a discussion about the credentials of PC members when it came to planning matters – they were not planners and did not possess the expertise to toe any rules there might be.

Cllr Scarlett suggested that SHDC guidance be sought about planning matters. He proposed a formal meeting with members of the planning department to which the public be invited since he quite rightly said they had a stake in the issue. Cllr Brewis stated rather aggressively that this had: 'nothing to do with the public'.

So much for democracy! See note at the beginning of this report.

12. Working Parties etc

B Cllr Brewis reported on holes in the allotment trackways but said that the tracks were 'fit for purpose' though the Chairman, an allotment-holder, joked that he 'begged to differ'.

B(i) West Bank Fence. Cllr Brewis admitted that he had neglected to consider the West Bank fence.

H SELLP Cllr Scarlett wondered what progress had been made on the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan. Cllr Brewis interrupted to say that it would be out by the end of the year. When Cllr Scarlett replied that it should have been out by now Cllr Brewis pointed out that the delay was due to [unspecified] Government changes in policy. Cllr Scarlett persisted and requested that the Clerk asked for an update so he could see what the current situation was in black & white. Cllr Brewis said, "You'll only get what I've told you..." There were things that as a member of the Planning Committee he was not at liberty to divulge.

Somebody said, 'We are going into a new phase of consultation.'

The whole process is out of kilter with the original timetable so we really don't know where we are. And why all the secrecy?

13. Outside Bodies

Suttons Emergency Planning.

Cllr Brewis offered typically inaudible comments. We were unable to make sense of what he said.

The meeting was closed to the Public at around 8.20pm


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+++ CLICK HERE +++
To view our archived articles of Sutton Bridge Parish Council Meetings News
+++ CLICK HERE +++

(THE ORIGINAL BRIDGE WATCH WEBSITE ARTICLE IS DETAILED BELOW)


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Sutton Bridge Parish Council

The majority of the current Parish Council consists of Councillors who were elected with one clear mandate: to get rid of the Bridge Road Enhancement Scheme. That has been their purpose since May 2007 when they were elected.

In January 2009 a compromise agreement was reached with Lincolnshire County Council Highways Department (LCCHD) to carry out certain alterations that it was hoped would meet some of the demands of Sutton Bridge Parish Council without returning Bridge Road to the race track it was previously.

The LCCHD naturally wanted to make sure that all the residents of Sutton Bridge were in agreement with the proposed changes. So, together with the Town Clerk, a member of the Highways Department drew up a detailed survey to be carried out among residents of Sutton Bridge. Although this was an item on the Agenda for the April 28th 2009 Meeting, the survey was not in fact discussed. Cllr Brewis produced a leaflet that he said had been drawn up in consultation with Mr Paul Coathup of the LCCHD. It was approved of by Cllr Dewsberry, who later confirmed his agreement. Mr Coathup subsequently denied his involvement in the production of the leaflet.

The leaflet that was distributed to most, but not all, households in Sutton Bridge was a truncated version of the original document; it simply demanded a single YES/NO decision from recipients. This didn’t allow for people to discriminate between the things they favoured being altered and those they wanted to remain as they were.

Only one leaflet was delivered per household, so residents living in the same household who disagreed with each other could not vote unless they photocopied the leaflet. Because there were no numbers on the leaflet, photocopying could have been done by anyone at any time, including people not on the electoral register.

Other discrepancies were:

None of the above arrangements were discussed by the Parish Council: the document was presented as a fait accompli.

This document was delivered with a ‘short newsletter’ from Messrs Brewis and Booth.

When the count took place (in the Church, not the Parish Council Office), the clerk was not present, nor was there an official adjudicator. One member of the public was present – a member of Bridge Watch. It was decided that some votes were ineligible because they were ‘duplicated’ (see above!).

Those on the Council in favour of scrapping the scheme completely claimed that the result of this vote was a victory. They frequently quote the fact that there was a 90% majority in favour of the amendments.

How do they arrive at this figure?

Around 360 people voted in favour of change and 30 people opposed it. So 90% represents the proportion of the people who actually voted for change. LCCHD required a majority of the residents to be in favour of the amendments before they took action. 360 out of 3000 shows a mere 10% of the residents in favour of a change, which was seen as a victory even though so few people had expressed an opinion.

(In view of this it is inevitable to wonder on what basis LCCHD can possibly now be intent on wasting £45,000 on amendments that only 10% of the residents have voted for.)

In an article on May 7th 2009 in the Spalding Guardian: ‘Views Sought on £40,000 Scheme’, Cllr Dewsberry said that he had authorised the shortened version because the original document was too long for ‘our parishioners to read …’ and that they would probably ‘chuck it in the bin.’

Is this democracy?

In the absence of the Clerk on August 18th , there was an additional meeting of the Parish Council called to discuss a letter from the LCCHD asking specific questions in order for the Department to be able answer residents’ concerns. The Standards Committee was of the opinion that this whole episode was 'unfortunate'...

As stated on the Home Page, it was this series of events that first drew Bridge Watch’s attention to what appeared to be happening within the Parish Council. Since May 2009 Bridge Watch members have attended every meeting and, using their right to ask questions during the Open Forum that precedes each meeting, have attempted to draw attention to what they understand to be some of the failings of the Parish Council.

Among them:

Is this democracy?

It is the aim of Bridge Watch to encourage good governance in Sutton Bridge Parish Council. All Councillors should attend training sessions organised by SHDC on implementing the Code of Conduct.

By attending Parish Council Meetings, Bridge Watch is making sure that councillors are answerable for their actions to the electorate. Our questions have to be answered according to the Code of Conduct, which sets out the duties and responsibilities of councillors.

What happens if Parish Councillors infringe the Code of Conduct?

The monitoring of local government is complicated. The only body that escapes total scrutiny is the Parish Council. We can complain to the Standards Committee about individual councillors but not about the Parish Council. Experience shows that it is very difficult to present a case to the Standards Committee and have it accepted.

Time and again at Parish Council meetings we have been told to refer our dissatisfactions to the Standards Committee and have done with no success. Even the Local Government Ombudsman is unable to intervene in Parish Council affairs – only the Courts. It is little wonder, then, the Sutton Bridge Parish Council feels, as one councillor has said on two occasions at Parish Council Meetings, "We can do what we like!"

What is needed is more vigilance, more residents taking an active interest in Parish Council Affairs – after all, their decisions affect us all. 

Watch this Space!


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A CODE OF CONDUCT

Introduction

By what yardstick is it possible to measure the behaviour of Parish Councils?

The South Holland District Council Code of Conduct is based on a national Code which was published in May 2007.

All Parish Councillors are given a copy of the local Code of Conduct on taking office and agree to abide by it. The SHDC Standards Committee Newsletter regularly points out that ‘unfortunately some members still fail to do so...’

The Code of Conduct is by no means rocket science: it simply notes the need for reasonable behaviour in dealing with other human beings, treating them with respect, and lays out rules for the avoidance of political chicanery.

The problem, of course, is in the interpretation of its detail. For instance, what specifically constitutes ‘bringing their office or authority into disrepute...’

Who assesses the decision-making capability of the Standards Committee?

An Assessment Sub-Committee (which considers complaints about councillors) comprises 3 members of the Standards Committee which must include one independent member who must also chair the meeting. The decision of the Assessment Sub-Committee can be appealed if it decides to take no further action in respect of a complaint. The appeal would be heard by an Assessment Review Sub-Committee which would again comprise 3 members (none of which must have served on the original Assessment Sub-Committee) and must again be chaired by an independent member. On the other hand, if an Assessment Sub-Committee refers a complaint for investigation the subject member who has been complained of has no right of appeal.

Bridge Watch believes that members of Sutton Bridge Parish Council have not necessarily followed to the letter the Code of Conduct which is supposed to have been in force since 2007. Anybody concerned with good governance should make themselves familiar with the detail of the Code in order to be able to challenge things quickly as soon as they happen.

Sutton Bridge Parish Council has been asked what mechanism it has in place to make sure that the Code of Conduct is adhered to during their meetings and in their relationship with the public.

Its members have a collective responsibility to make sure, both as individuals and as a body, that the Code of Conduct prevails. It is certainly not sufficient to comment, as the Chairman has done, "Take your complaint to the Standards Committee..." That is a total abrogation of responsibility.


Parish Councils Code of Conduct 2007


GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

INTERESTS

Personal Interests

Prejudicial Interests

THE REGISTER OF MEMBERS’ INTERESTS

Registration of Gifts and Hospitality

This is a digest of the Model Code of Conduct for Parish Councils. The full version may be seen by consulting:- www.sholland.gov.uk/council/democratic/policies/MembersCodeofConduct - Click on ‘Model Code of Conduct for Parish Councils’ at the foot of the Home Page


Notes
South Holland District Council Notes on a Code of Conduct spell out what is meant by ‘treating others with respect’:-

Reference:- www.sholland.gov.uk/council/democratic/meetings/standards click on ‘Members’ Code of Conduct’...


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