Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reflections on the Annual Town Meeting

The Annual Town Meeting should be an important part of St. Neots life. It is a point in the St. Neots civic calendar when the electors of the Town can come together to talk about St. Neots. Whilst the Town Council is required to organise and run this event it is NOT a Council Meeting. There seems to be the fundamental misunderstanding of what the Annual Town Meeting is for. The ATM agenda is here.

Because the Town Council cannot understand what the Annual Town Meeting is for it ends up putting the Town Council standards on this meeting. This is wrong.

A Town Meeting is just that. Whilst the Town Mayor chairs the Town Meeting and it is organised by the Town Council, it is not a meeting of the Town Council. This is an important distinction. As the Town Councillors are there as electors they should be sitting amongst the electors and not seperate from them. I found the Town Concillors facing the electors just an extension of the "them and us" which pervades the secretative St. Neots Town Council.

Onto the Agenda

This is a meeting of the Town. Only the Town Councillors et al seemed to have agendas. There were none for the public. Also where were the previous minutes? When the meeting was asked to approve the minutes it was not for the Councillors to approve but all those attending the meeting including the electors!

We then moved onto the Mayor's Report. This long drawn out verbal report was presented without any written report provide for the audience. More on the Mayor's Report when the minutes of the meeting are published.

At the top of the Agenda the public are invited to address the Council. This is wrong. The public have the right to address the meeting. 
We had the Councillors Statement of Attendance. I've never had this at a Town Meeting. The statement of Attendance would be more appropriate within the Annual Council Meeting.
Again the meeting was asked to approve a document it had no sight of. Secrecy abounds.

The Town Mayors' Charity Presentations shouldn't be here. This is appropriate for the Annual Council Meeting. I know some Town/Parish Councils do this but they insist local organisations give a report to the Town Meeting on their activities. These organisations do receive public funds towards their activities. Time we require the same.

Moving onto item 7. St Neots - The Future again brings the short presentation. The Annuall Town Meeting should be a good example of discussion about the future. 
Yet again there was no literature to go with this presentation. Why not? This just smacks of HDC secrecy or penny pinching. Where am I supposed to put my views forward on St Neots - The Future?
The Town Debate was apparently included in the St Neots - The Future. I ask some 25 questions and I'll get around to looking at these and the answers in detail - soon.

In conclusion, I will point out this is not a real Meeting when compared to others. This meeting has been squeezed in front of the Annual Council Meeting. There is no reason for this at all. The Annual Town Meeting is for the electors of the Town and can be held between 1st March and 1st June inclusive. I feel the Annual Town Meeting should be a key event in the civic calendar rather than squeezing it in before the Annual Council Meeting.
In comparison
As couple of Town Meeting agendas and documents from other Town Councils:

The first is: Hythe Town Council Town Meeting Standing Orders. This gives the legal background behind an Annual Town Meeting.

The second is: an agenda from Loughton Town Council.

The third is: an agenda from Folkstone Town Council. This makes use of other organisations.

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