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Bingham Town Council to pursue award scheme rather than following independent advice aimed at resolving its issues

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A council rocked by in-fighting is set to pursue an award scheme instead of following independent advice aimed at resolving issues.

Those tuning into a virtual meeting of Bingham Town Council witnessed a parish still at loggerheads.

Town mayor John Stockwood has survived a vote of no-confidence.

Mayor John Stockwood of Bingham Town Council. (36803912)
Mayor John Stockwood of Bingham Town Council. (36803912)

Concerns have been raised about how he conducts meetings and the amount of business taking place away from public scrutiny.

Rushcliffe Borough Council’s independent monitoring officer was asked for advice.

However, it was revealed at the meeting that a motion to adopt her recommendations, put forward at a policy and resources committee, was defeated.

Bingham Market Place. (42954219)
Bingham Market Place. (42954219)

Member of the public Tony Fox, said: “My particular concern about this is the fact that there’s nothing in the minutes to refer to the reasons why it was defeated.

“Bearing in mind the amount of time the monitoring officer must have taken to construct the long letter she sent in, which I read as being a positive contribution to the debate on Bingham, I think it’s rather disrespectful to have a meeting and its minutes to make no reference to why the council were being recommended through the policy and resources meeting not to take it forward.”

Francis Purdue-Horan said: “An entirely appropriate alternative is to look at the National Association of Local Council’s local council award scheme, which, also is appropriate for governance, and this council was one of the first to be awarded quality town council status in previous years, and under a previous clerk we were able to to renew that qualification at the quality town council scheme.

Councillor Francis Purdue-Horan. (42954350)
Councillor Francis Purdue-Horan. (42954350)

“The local council award scheme is an extremely robust and reasonable scheme to aim for.”

John Lewis, another town councillor, said: “What councillor Purdue-Horan is saying is all very well, but the recommendations he is moving is that we do not follow the recommendations contained in the monitoring officer’s letter.”

Councillor John Lewis. (42954403)
Councillor John Lewis. (42954403)

Mr Stockwood said: “The recommendation in the papers is that the council register with the councils’ award scheme and begin work to meet the criteria. That is the text you are being asked to approve.”

Councillor Vivienne Leach said: “Why have we got a monitoring officer if her advice is not going to be taken up?”

Councillor Vivienne Leach. (42954490)
Councillor Vivienne Leach. (42954490)

Mr Stockwood said: “The policy and resources committee recommends we follow the recognised process for improvement in development, which is to apply for the local council award scheme.”

Mr Fox replied: “That’s nice to hear but that’s just a repeat of what you say in the minutes.

“There’s no reference, and therefore I assume no discussion, about a much more arguably significant issue, which was the letter sent by the monitoring officer. And to not have a dickie bird mentioned or discussed or debated, quite frankly, is disrespectful, not just to Rushcliffe Borough Council but to the people of Bingham.”

Concerns have also been raised about the future of the town clerk. Previously it was alleged there was a plot to make the clerk’s position redundant by appointing a town centre manager and deputy.

Instead, it is now planned to add an additional locum clerk to staff.

A member of the public, Sue Hull, a former Lib Dem town councillor, said: “I’m pleased to see you are now recommending to not to proceed with the restructuring of staff.

“I can only assume you’ve realised what former councillors and members of public have been telling you for four months and that the chance of it ending in tribunal is too higher risk to take.

“It’s such a shame you have put your staff through this stressful ordeal in the middle of an already stressful pandemic.

“With this in mind, will you be following the advice of the monitoring officer and seeking independent support such as ACAS guidance with regards to the relationship issues between councillors and staff?”

Former councillor and mayor Jane Costello said to Mr Stockwood: “I’m not surprised, but exceedingly disappointed that you haven’t actually answered correctly any of the questions or statements put to you this evening.

“The people of Bingham, as the standards committee of Rushcliffe said, deserve better. We do deserve better, we expect better and we are looking for better. If you can’t do it, perhaps you should quit.”

To which Mr Stockwood replied: “Well thank you for your views.”

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