Abingdon Town Council Meeting – 27th Jan 2016 – Gets Political

There was a meeting of Abingdon Town Council this evening to consider reports from the council’s sub Committees, and agree next year’s budget.
Abingdon Town Council Meeting
The meeting began with a prayer from Revd Charles Miller where he prayed among other things “Inspire the council with a right judgement in all things, and … a zeal for the common good.

Councillors expressed concern about the mud on the road left be lorries leaving the Drayton Road building site, and the danger presented sometimes by lorries turning into the site. The Mayor undertook to write to the district council to express the town council’s concern.

There was then a heated debate about setting up a working group to consider the council’s future carbon cutting. Conservatives first suggested postponing the working group agreed at a previous town council. They then proposed it be set up under Widdecombe rules so that the ruling Conservative party have 3 members, and the opposition Lib-Dems 2. This left the independent Angela Lawrence out in the cold. But the Widdecombe rules were voted through by all the Conservatives; all the Lib-Dems abstained, and only Angela voted against. She appeared to be the one most passionate about making things happen in this working group.

A decision was made to allow a 2nd monthly Farmer’s Market. There was also a discussion of Market fees. On this occasion it was Conservative Councillor Vicky Jenkins who was a lone voice. She said that the town council was subsidising the Farmer’s Market whose rents were 38% less. Both Markets should be treated the same.

Other committee papers were all agreed including those on the Guildhall which I will return to soon.
Abingdon Town Council Meeting
There followed a party political discussion on the budget. The Lib-Dems proposed some amendments to the budget. These included adding £60K to the Community fund to help save Abingdon’s Children’s Centres, and £30K not £10K towards pushing ahead with the Neighbourhood Plan. To pay for these changes they wanted efficiency savings, charging more for some council services, and not putting quite so much towards the future cemetery fund, or buying additional Christmas lights.

In the end this amendment was voted down largely on party lines with Angela Lawrence the independent and another councillor choosing to abstain. The main Conservative argument was that the Lib-Dems should have thought of these ideas earlier and got it properly discussed through committees beforehand.

But it did produce a good lively debate. When everything is agreed beforehand town council meetings can be as dull as next year’s budget sheets.

43 thoughts on “Abingdon Town Council Meeting – 27th Jan 2016 – Gets Political

  1. ppjs

    Did the Tories not like someone too passionately committed to on their little (non-)working group? Even at the local level, there sometimes seems to be more interest in party than in the common good. This hardly encourages citizens to engage.

    A lively debate doesn’t necessarily produce good civic action, does it?

  2. Angela

    Well, what a council meeting. It seems Independent councillors, even those with lots of experience count for nothing.
    Last September it was agreed that the council would strive for Transition Town status and my amendment that we should set up a working party (WP) to progress thiis was agreed.
    As Alastair reports, that W.P. Was set up at last nights meeting. I asked if I could be on it since I am a keen supporter and was the one who had suggested setting it up.
    the WP would consist of 3 Tories and 2 Lib Dems.
    It Is very wrong to politicise a WP, even principal (District, County and Unitary) councils don’t normally do this.
    W.Ps are supposed to be made up of people with a particular interest regardless of party and with people from the community who have relevant expertise co- opted.
    I hope that the WP will have the sense to invite someone from carbon cutters to join the group.

  3. Dave

    The need for the town council to write to the district council about mud on the road, and the danger of lorries turning off the site on the Drayton Road would illustrate the depth of thought given to the local safety. These basic needs should have been included at the initial planning meetings, not left for local people to discover and have to complain about.
    As for the party political bickering, here we go again. No wonder large retailers avoid Abingdon on Thames, who would blame them.

  4. Janet

    Nicola Blackwood should resign. This Government has presided over the rape of services for the UK’s vulnerable and disabled. Homelessness is set to rise. We can expect to see hundreds more forced to sleep rough. At the same time this Government is sending UK taxpayers money abroad. We should support our own vulnerable first.

  5. Peter Del

    Ms. Blackwood, please don’t resign. You fought my corner for me against an uncaring Oxfordshire County Council and triumphed. Carry on Regardless.

  6. hester

    This town is full of intelligent people, with not just ideas, but also experience and skills which they are willing to use for the good of the town but they are treated with great suspicion if they step outside the realm normally recognised as “community”. This is usually on the basis that they are “not elected” but now it seems to be being extended to elected councillors as well..How depressing.

  7. Steve

    Thanks for posting all this. I don’t know you personally, but I think this is a very valuable and important resource to help people understand what goes on at a local level. Keep up the excellent work.

  8. Captainkaos2

    That’s the problem when you don’t have a robust opposition ! Re the BID I’ve just had an email from one of the towns traders, he says the chair of the BID has resigned and of the proposing panel only 3 have put their names forward to be directors/committee members ? He goes onto say that with only a few weeks to go before the Vale begin sending out the level demands the BID has still not been registered with company house? can anyone from the BID make a statement please?

  9. Mr Smith

    I agree with a former mayor of Abingdon, that party politics should be kept out of the TC.
    Today’s party squabbling demonstrates how the TC is less effective than it should be, by plainly failing to apply the most appropriate skill-sets (best brains?) to the particular tasks in hand. I therefore have sympathy for Angela. If the TC is to save all that CO2E, the people involved should include those who are keenest to see it work. Instead the only unanimous outcome of this meeting appears to be a letter, where I’m sure the Mayor will advise the Vale that everyone is very, very cross indeed.

  10. davidofLuton

    I do not quite see why janet is calling for Nicola Blackwood to resign. She votes as she is told; according to theyworkforyou.com she has never once voted against party orders in this parliament.

    If you have a beef, Janet, it is not with Nicola Blackwood. It is with those who tell her what to do.

  11. ColinB

    Not hhttp://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/14239463.Traders_face_increased_competition_from_rival_market/elped by Headlines like this in Oxford Mail:

    Thanks to the Mayor and some councillors that attended the Annual Mayors Challenge at Abingdon Phab yesterday (Christchurch, Northcourt Road), with such a late finish of the TC meeting..

  12. colin

    I am not holding my breath but I bet the extra market day is not on a Saturday or Sunday.
    That would be to convenient for the people who work a normal Mon>Fri.

  13. Captainkaos2

    The neighbourhood plan, is it really worth setting aside such an amount on this? How could/would Abingdon benefit ?

  14. Ali.

    So unless you are Tory in the Town Council there is no point having an idea, suggestion or opinion as it will just be dismissed! Just out of interest why do councillors abstain in votes, surely they are they to represent us townsfolk. I was bought up being told never to waste my vote! I wonder why the Torys wanted to postpone the working group & then only agree to it if they clearly control it, all sounds underhand & not working together for the benefit of the town. I would love to hear from Angela why she isn’t allowed to be part of it!? On a finally note I much rather the children centre’s are saved than new Christmas lights but each to their own!

  15. Dave

    Ali, in an expanding town the size of Abingdon on Thames, we should be able to enjoy both. It can not be to much to ask that the children of today, perhaps those less fortunate than ourselves, can not be given a better start in life.
    Maybe the BID could come forward with some financial help with the lights at Christmas, it is to their advantage to have a cheerful town centre during drab mid winter.

  16. Captainkaos2

    Ali, what’s wrong with the TC spending on Christmas lights? It’s a gesture that brings a feel good factor to the town, encourages footfall and reminds us of what Christmas is about, the children’s centres are the responsibility of the county council and while I understand the need to be frugal they must rely on town councils to cover their shortfall, that’s just shifting the responsibility

  17. Angela

    Ali, I don’t know why the council leader decided to politicise this working group and to exclude me. I think it might have been because I have said that we should take the opportunity, while spending all this money on the Guildhall, Tom “green-proof ” it. I can’t think of any other reason. When I challenged him after the meeting he did say that one of the Lib Dem group who would be on the working party was very political, but I m mystified as to why that should prevent me being on it, He could have made it 6 members so his group would still be the largest, although, on a working group, I’m at a loss to see why that should matter.

  18. Angela

    Neighbour hood plan. Why have one?
    It strengthens our ability to fight off unsuitable developments. We can’t stop development but we can have a say in where it should go so that we can preserve the character and nature of our town. We can specify the mix so that we get housing that actually meets local need rather than what is most profitable for the builder. I know the Vale does that already but there are too many loopholes that allow the developer to wriggle out of their agreement.
    A neighbourhood Plan strengthens our case.

  19. Angela

    I agree with Ali that it is weak to abstain. I abstained on the Lib Dem amendments to the budget because their paper, tabled on the night, was very unclear.
    There were aspects of it that I would have been glad to support, and if they have had asked for a vote on each of their proposed amendments individually I woulld have been able to vote yay or nay as I thought fit.
    As it was, because I supported some of their proposals but not others, and was unclear as to what others referred to I abstained.

  20. Hester

    To add to Angela’s list..
    It can prevent destruction of some of our traditional character buildings: we know of at least one eyesore where at the Planning Appeal the Inspector said she would have not allowed it to go ahead if there had been a NP in place protecting it and can think of many more where the same might have applied.

    It can provide ground-rules for new developments so that, for example, they have good pedestrian/cycle access to local facilities, make sure that they provide adequate green space, leisure areas etc.

    Because a NP has to have genuine community engagement from the start, as opposed to just consulting us on Council-led proposals, the community has the opportunity to influence what is in the Plan.

  21. Angela

    Thanks Hester, I hope you would be along to fill in the detail.
    As to the cost. In a way it’s an investment. Having a neighbourhood plan gives a town/parish the right to 25% of the Community Infrastructurera Levy (CIL) which is the contribution the developer has to pay towards the cost of things like cycle tracks, community halls, play areas, new schools, all the things that a new development might create a need for. So as well as being able to lay down ground rules we can also have a share of the money that would provide the things appropriate to them.

  22. Captainkaos2

    I’m not denying there could be some real benefits, just questioning the figure of £70k I saw as the cost to set the thing up !

  23. Mr Smith

    I don’t know weather a neighbourhood plan would have prevented the beautiful weatherboarded house in Wootton Road being replaced by those hideous flats. The old house was mentioned in Pevsner’s Buildings of England, and the TC had recommended refusal of planning permission. What more was needed?
    The cruel truth is that the Vale is terrified that wealthy developers will appeal against refusals, and heaven forbid, taxpayers’ funds be used for legal fees. We have to be prepared to pay for the town we want. That means a good NP and the backbone to enforce it.

  24. Hester

    Mr Smith – a properly constructed NP (with provisions for houses of special interest) might well have saved 42 Wootton Road; it almost certainly would have saved Champion House (an Arts and Crafts house a few doors along, where the retirement flats are now) – the Inspector said as much!

  25. Angela

    Daniel, there have definitely been instances where the developer has lost his appeal because it goes against the local NP, where he might not otherwise have done so, so perhaps sometimes it is wise to heed what the Inspector says.

  26. Captainkaos2

    The comments on the Wootton road development (as with most controversial developments) are very subjective, I knew the person who owned it, it was little more than an overgrown shed, full of rot and impossible to keep warm, as nice as it may have looked it was past its sell by date, remember too that those who liked it would probably object to the design of the replacement whether it was on Wootton rd or not ? Times change, with it does design and taste, it would follow that the older generation would dislike the flats but the younger ones would like it ?

  27. Captainkaos2

    Thinking about adopting an NP, if all that has been said by H & A is correct then I suggest they get their skates on and have it in place prior to Abingdons favourite builder developes the Upper Reaches site, then the TC and town
    May well benefit from the development? On the other hand they could include it in the NP as a place of special interest etc and bar any development! In which case I can’t wait to see the scrap that would surely follow between Abingdond favourite builder and the TC ! Any bets on who the winner would be ?

  28. Captainkaos2

    Ha ha Angela, got that, but like you we shall feel frustrated at the big machine that rides rough shot over the masses ! I get so p##off when the wishes of the people get totally ignored by the money wheel, Morland green is a perfect example, ditto ock St, old gaol, 65 Oxford rd, upper reaches, precinct etc etc, beam me up Scottie !

  29. chris

    David, I don’t see your point, all mp’s will vote according to the manifesto they were elected on so to say Nicola has done as she is told is irrelevant. OXWAB has an MP who can have an influence on policy unlike the period upto 2010 when we had an MP who said alot and did nothing.

  30. Angela

    The process of getting a Neighbourhood Plan in place, and thereby is the sticking point. Although the Town Council has talked about it for a long time now and several of us are keen to get started there is a lot of heel- dragging,

  31. Daniel

    What is it about a neighbourhood plan that will work better than what we have?

    What is it about spending £30k, rather than £10k, on a NP that is better than making what we currently have just made to work better?

    Why doesn’t “what we have” work? Why will spending £30k on something else suddenly make things better? I don’t get it.

    It feels like someone (not the TC) is making money out of selling “How to make a neighbourhood plan” presentation packs, pens, fridge magnets and ballons for the kids.

    What is it that costs £30k? What do we currently have, and how much does it cost for it to be failing us? When we have spent £30k on our NP, will that be instead of or as well as the cost of the current, failing, situation/administration or what have you?

    I’m a Taurus. I’m sceptical.

  32. Daniel

    ….hold on…hold on, just a cott’n pick’n minute…has a *consultant* suggested we need a neighbourhood plan…is that it?

  33. Angela

    Daniel, the opportunity for Parishes and their local communities was brought in as part of the Localism agenda. The intention is to give local communities some power over the planning process, and it has been effective. The cost is not due to consultant fees – We dont need consultants, there is plenty of guidance and advice out there, and there is also a Government grat of £8,000 towards the cost and I believ the District Council will also make a contribution.

    Why should we need a NP?
    Good question, Daniel. If the planning process worked as it should, with a few tweaks, we wouldn’t need one. Sadly the Government has created so many loopholes that developers are able to call the shots even when they go against Governments’ own policies and the local authorities’ Planning Policy Framework and Local Plan

  34. Daniel

    Localism hasn’t worked. Why would this be any different. It feels too easy to spend the money, and I can’t see it’ll give us any greater protection. But what do I know…good luck with it!


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