Comment: The inaugural meeting of the Interim Sutton Coldfield Parish Council

The Interim Sutton Coldfield Parish Council held its inaugural meeting at the Mere Green Community Centre yesterday, Tuesday 15th of March.

sutton coldfield town hall

This was a big day for the Royal Town and there was a good turn out by the public to witness the historic event.

Starting promptly at 6pm the Interim Parish Councillors and officers spent around 1 hour and 40 minutes working through a packed agenda.

The aim was to clear the way for the full Parish Council after it is duly elected in May. To get some of the formalities and regulatory stuff concluded.

This included the recommendation that the Parish Council be renamed the Town Council, which was agreed.

I tweeted after the meeting that it was interesting. What I didn’t include in that 140 character social media space was that it wasn’t necessarily for all the right reasons.

It was unfortunate that, to an outsider such as myself, parts of the meeting appeared to be centred as much around petty point scoring and self promotion as clearing the ground for the full council.

Council officer Ifor Jones, Interim Town Clerk Nick Randle and Council Member Elizabeth Alison helped steer the ship, through the Chair, and keep it on course with their concise and informed comments.

There is little doubt that the steering group performed an excellent job in preparing for the creation of the Parish Council in such a short time. However, this interim period prior to the return of a full, duly elected council with a genuine mandate to carry out its tasks feels all a bit, well superfluous and somewhat a stage for anyone looking to stand in May.

Now, I’m not saying that some of the work isn’t important, it is, and it will certainly help make the early days of the full council easier – something anyone returned by the electorate in early Summer will appreciate. A problem I have, and which was evident from last nights meeting, is that there is an undercurrent of a lack of respect. That more team work and less posturing is required is clearly evident. Such a move would go a long way to creating a positive image of the council in these early days and remove the impression of a fragmented group that has yet to really see the bigger picture.

It’s not about everyone agreeing – different views are vital if Sutton Coldfield is to move forward under the new council – its about respect. A respect that comes from working together as democratically elected Parish / Town Councillors. That is what I hope for and look forward to seeing after May 5th regardless of who is returned.

3 Responses

  1. Paul Long says:

    I agree that we need to get away from party political squabbling and even those of us who aren’t politicians sometimes fall into their trap. Nick Randle has been doing a stirling job following the fantastic job that has been done by Ifor Jones, both with outstanding support from Olive O’Sullivan without whom we would not be at this stage. They provide us with facts and necessary legislation and guidance that we can build upon.

    What was clear from the meeting was that the main political group voted in block against a proposal to give residents guidance about what a Town Council could potentially deliver when the community representatives felt this was the right thing to do. It was a shame that a good idea was voted against just because it was suggested by someone of a different political persuasion.

    One of the reasons independent town councillors can do things better, like they do in Frome, is because they have their differences, debate them, and come to a consensus or vote and then move on without being swayed by political opinions. There will be at least 13 independent councillors standing for the Town Council and they have already agreed “Ways of Working” (WoW) together if they are elected. They also know that if they are elected there will be politicians on the council too and they hope to use the appropriate expertise of everybody in the room to make the council work rather than singling out people because they are not of the same political persuasion.

    Sadly, this has not been the case so far and when the Town Clerk had recommended that the chair and 2 other councillors always check press releases from the Town Council and I suggested an amendment that those 2 councillors could be of different political persuasions (in the interests of avoiding bias), this was met with shouts of “no” from the politicians on the group – I really don’t see why this should be a problem if everyone is working together for the better of Sutton rather than for the better of their party.

    The interim council should not be a stage for anyone looking to stand, especially as many looking to stand aren’t part of this group. But it is an essential building block to ensuring the legalities are in place and urgent business is carried out and information provided ready for the elected members when they commence in May. What is not seen by the ‘outsider’ as put by Najm, is the work going on behind the scenes by the group that campaigned for a town council in the first place and the efforts they have put into supporting council officers to get us to where we are now. This is sometimes only manifested in meetings or it might not be seen at all.

  2. Paul Long says:

    My wife has just read this and agrees mostly with Najm’s observations as another member of the “audience” (should have been called public). She noticed similar dynamics and lack of respect at times during the meeting, especially when suggestions were being made that not everybody might agree with, but were valid points open to debate. She also hopes that all speakers during the next meeting will use microphones in order to promote a spirit of inclusiveness for the public who wish to follow the discussion. She says that she learned a lot about Sutton Coldfield as a whole by attending.

  3. albert meehan says:

    Right from its beginning , I was concerned that SCPC would be Hijacked by the Conservatives. This manifested itself in the formation of the Steering Committee and them obtaining positions of power. Originally they tried to conduct meetings behind closed doors and as a party were against SCTC but changed there minds. I do not understand why Suttonians can not see the total manipulation that they undertake, I can only think the public don’t care. Just watch, the Conservatives will get as many of their 24 elected as they can, they will then vote all their top brass into positions of power and eliminate all the original founder members. I really hope I am wrong, and that the independents prevail -we shall see.