Mayor’s Response to Lib Dem Election Leaflet

I was extremely disappointed to read the Lib Dem junk mail that came through my door recently which has presumably been delivered to every house in the parish by now.

Cllr John Nutley attacks the Town Council in no uncertain terms, calling us ‘fools’, he makes accusations that we are misdirecting funds for some kind of personal gain and criticises the Council for low attendance at meetings.

As Chair of the Council, I feel I cannot ignore this without responding.

Cllr. Nutley, your attacks are unprovoked and below the belt.

Ours is a very active council and unlike many others, does not measure itself solely by turning up at meetings. Our councillors have been extremely active in the community even if they, due to health problems or family and work commitments, have not always been able to attend meetings. Like Linus (who has now resigned as he has moved away) who was unable to attend meetings in recent months but who voluntarily set up and continues to run the CAB outreach service which brought over £120,000 of additional money to his clients in the first year alone. Or Simon, who is currently not able to attend many meetings, but who set up and runs the award-winning community cinema, arranged and managed the sensational Colourscape events and wrote, designed and printed the new town guide. Or Dan, who’s been busy expanding his business but has still led on numerous organisational and staff issues behind the scenes at the council and town hall.

As Cllr. Nutley knows we have struggled with a number of councillors resigning from the council with health, workload and family issues and have had to find candidates to take their place.

But instead of offering appreciation of their service, you do our town councillors a disservice with your derogatory comments and attempts to bring them into disrepute. It is a struggle already to convince people to take on this responsibility and criticism and unwarranted attacks of this kind, from someone who should know better, can only make the job harder.

The Town Council does not have a Party Political agenda – Lib Dem candidates for the Town Council have been welcomed and have played an important part in the work of the TC (Janet has been a fantastic councillor on the team and I encouraged and supported Huw to join in full knowledge of his support for the Lib Dems). Huw, who recently joined the council and who also featured in this leaflet, has himself only managed a 2/3 attendance rate so far – but this is to be expected if we prioritise recruiting young, active councillors who may not have as much time or flexibility as the traditionally retired candidates. I would certainly not criticise anyone on that basis. What counts is what they do, not how they look…

To imply that we raised the council tax by 97% to fund the pool and that this was somehow to the benefit of members of the Town Council is both misleading, disingenuous and frankly insulting and disrespectful. For a start, it was implied that the TC was responsible for the entire increase to the Council Tax bill (it is not mentioned that that was two years ago), when we actually only set and receive around 6% of it. Our increase to the precept only amounted to approximately £1 a week per household. And though ensuring the future of Victoria Park and Pool was part of what we spent the extra money on, Cllr. Nutley knows that we have done much, much more besides, including bringing in a Town Ranger, paying for youth activities throughout the school holidays, creating an emergency landing field for helicopters at the football club by providing new lighting, paying for the Citizens Advice service, increasing funds to voluntary groups etc.

In this publication, Cllr. Nutley says he was ‘inundated’ by complaints about the precept increase in 2017. Presumably his constituents would have brought these complaints to him in order for him to raise the issue with the Town Council but he has never mentioned this to us – it only arises now in pre-election publicity. I would like to know how many complaints he actually received, as after a very open and transparent series of public meetings, workshops and early notification in the press and social media, we received only 3 complaints as I remember – so either he was not very persuasive or his definition of ‘many’ is somewhat different from ours…

I would like to thank all our councillors, past and present, for the incredible hard work and commitment that you have given to the parish, and to apologize that your work meets with such criticism and attack. You have made an enormous difference to the life of this town and without you it would be a much poorer place to live.

I am saddened and puzzled as to why Cllr. Nutley and the Lib Dems would want to make such an attack on the Town Council – it can only be some misguided political manoeuvring for the upcoming elections and as such serves no useful purpose for our constituents. Surely, we would be better off uniting to defend our community from a government that continues to undermine us by making vicious attacks on our services and on local democracy?

Well, as the American say – ‘They Go Low – We go Higher’.

Cllr Andy Stokes 29/1/19