Report finds issues at Bingham Town Council have been damaging, expensive and a stain on authority's reputation
A report aiming to drive improvements at a council says recent years have been damaging and expensive, and a stain on the authority’s reputation.
Bingham Town Council has faced years of issues and this led to residents starting a petition requesting that Rushcliffe Borough Council take over the running of the authority.
An independent report stated Conservatives then-mayor John Stockwood and current deputy mayor Francis Purdue-Horan had breached Bingham Town Council’s member code of conduct by harassing their town clerk Sharon Pyke.
They were both suspended from the Conservative Party.
Rushcliffe Borough Council offered to set up an improvement board to review Bingham’s governance.
The resulting report, which has now been published on the council’s website, states that the board — made up of five members — spoke to people on all sides who wanted to draw a line under the situation and move on.
But the report says councillors' attitudes and behaviours are the overriding issue to the resolution of the problems.
“However some people may want to portray it, the events of the last two years have been damaging, expensive and have stained the council’s reputation,” says the report.
Bingham has around 10,000 residents but the council was seen to be 'mirroring' county council norms, the report added, and the board 'seriously questioned' the degree of political control exercised in such a small council.
Since September 2019, Rushcliffe Borough Council has received more than 25 complaints about Bingham Town Council’s activities — which the report states is six times more than all the complaints from all the other 38 town and parish councils in Rushcliffe’s area put together.
And around £4.35 per head has been spent by Bingham Town Council for each of their local electors on reviews and legal advice as a result of the problems.
Some councillors have also resigned before their term of office has finished, which is also costly at £6,000 per resulting election.
The report states: “The continuing arguments have been time consuming, with significant opportunity costs in time and money for the town council, and the subsequent reputational damage has been significant. Councillors and residents, attended meetings and read reports and documents.
“Some of the reports about the associated social media comments etc have been quite disturbing and the police have been involved. The board therefore strongly recommends that all members desist from any negative commentary and behaviour about other members on social media.
“Just because there may be a majority group there is no excuse to short circuit the decision-making process, to exclude other members who are not part of any such grouping from reports or decision making, or close down input from them with reliance on verbal updates.”
The board recommends that Bingham Town Council publishes a plan detailing what it wishes to achieve.
It also recommends that training is in place including around the code of conduct and social media.
It has also put together an action plan which it asks that the town council signs.
Tony Fox, who set up the Bingham Deserves Better group, previously branded the council as manipulative, secretive and over-controlling.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This report is a damning indictment of the way the council was controlled and run by a small group of people.
“It is also a vindication of the petition which led to the board’s creation. I hope the council will be able to embrace change, reset its culture and strengthen its procedures’ but note the board’s concerns.”
The report said that councillors need to have the emotional intelligence to take into account peoples’ feelings, and their rights and responsibilities.
It states: “There is simply no excuse for poor behaviour towards staff, and the degree of antagonism members have encountered reflects the degree of injustice local people feel about the poor working culture of the council and the arguments that ensue.”