Report on today’s F&GP council meeting

The leader of the council, Councillor Mike Badcock, thanked those who had come to the Finance and General Purposes meeting on such an inclement evening. Snow like tiny polystyrene balls was being blown about on the road outside.

Councillor Mike Badcock also said it was nice to be back in the splendid Council Chamber. We got there by way of the staircase that some people have been trying to protect from the Town Council’s plans to install a lift. There were lots of empty chairs with only seven members of public in attendance in the Council Chamber.

Before the meeting proper, Hester raised a couple of points about the short term use of the Abbey Hall, and Jim Halliday asked for a breakdown on what had been spent in capital costs of the £1.2m dowry that came with the Guildhall.

Then we came to questions raised at the previous Finance and General Purposes meeting. The leader said that the replacement Ock Bridge would be coming on 23rd March, and installed the week after that – weather permitting. In answer to the question about the BID (Business Improvement District) which some traders have not been happy about and asked the Town Council to facilitate a meeting, we were told (and I hope my hearing is correct) that the management company running the BID had handed in their notice, and there would be a meeting with the district council later this week to discuss matters. He also announced a Bun Throwing ceremony to commemorate the end of WWI on Saturday November 10th.

The committee then considered the answers given to about half of the questions from the public meetings. The Guildhall Committee will consider those more appropriate to their committee on Thursday. When all are approved they will be formally published on the Town Council web site.

The committee then considered the architect’s report on reopening the Abbey Hall – in the short term. There were outstanding questions about whether all the works quoted as a minimum were essential. So when that has been discussed, and the agreed minimum cost clarified, the report will go to the Regal Evesham who can decide whether to move forward to a formal offer on using the Abbey Hall. There are also other short term possibilities for the hall such as the internal market suggested by one member of the public, and previous users such a ADFAS returning.

Anyway, I had to leave at that point…

13 thoughts on “Report on today’s F&GP council meeting

  1. Hester

    It was a strange meeting. I – and I think others of the public who attended, together with one Councillor – had thought the purpose of the meeting was to have serious discussion of the points raised at the public meetings. Such a discussion would have been informed by the very detailed reports which the Council had commissioned in th Autumn and taken delivery of a few weeks ago.
    However it soon became clear that that was not the intention. The proposed answers to the public meetings were approved without any discussion and we were told that more investigation was needed into some detail of the reports. As regards the approach from the Regal Cinema group, no reference was made to the letter received in January outlining their proposal to rent the Abbey Hall “on commercial terms which will make a significant positive contribution to the council’s finances” so the discussion was very vague; however the Regal are in discussion with the TC officers, they will be shown the reports on the condition of the building so they can submit a full proposal.
    Hopefully all of this will be done in time for the next F&GP meeting on 27 March and that there will be a more informed discussion – and some decisions – then.

  2. Lyle Lanley

    Now, I don’t have a dog in this fight, as the BID is paid for by the smaller local businesses who had it enforced on them by the larger ones but…

    maybe I’m just cynical, but I all I can see the BID has done is a few signs for wifi, ( that is pointless now, as most people will be using their much faster 4G data allowance on there phones to post on facebook..), and some bunting…

    And now they are being really pushed to provide evidence of what they have done, they’ve handed in their notice..


    Good value I say…

  3. Hester

    PS the draft answers to the questions raised at the Public Meetng can be found on the TC website in the papers for last night’s meeting. Once they have been signed off later this week they will be published in a more accessible place, on the “Parish Meeting” page.

  4. Deedee

    Julian, this is really bad, my interpretation of this is the chair and advisory board have finally succumbed to pressure from local businesses to investigate the financial shinanegans of the outfit they bought in to run the thing, which by all accounts are far from satisfactory, that being the case then surely the chair, advisory board, (including the district council member appointed to ensure fair play) are just as guilty for neglecting to not only act in the best interests of the levy payers, but have failed to display due diligence? Not fit for purpose then?

  5. Deedee

    Good question Rose, given the situation regarding the statement from the BID advisory board I would suggest you traders have a very good case of gross negligence against the advisory board, but more importantly one against the chair of the Abingdon Bid company, who for 18 months or more ( and despite numerous warnings) presided over this shambles and did nothing to prevent you all from being ripped off,
    It may even be he gets disqualified by companies house from ever holding a directorship again, and so he should !

  6. Reductio ad absurdum

    In the BID plan, published as part of the one sided BID campaign (how can a campaign where one side has access to funding and the other side has none be called fair?), still available on line, it is stated ;

    Following a successful ‘YES’ vote, Abingdon BID Company will be established.
    The BID Company will pledge to ensure it has the resources and systems to deliver the BID Business Plan to the highest standards, and will operate professionally, transparently and robustly in the following ways:
    -Staff the company with a qualified, professional and passionate BID manager.
    -Be based in the town centre and therefore reactive to business needs.
    -Employ professional legal and financial support to ensure very high standards of operation and independent,
    transparent annual accounts.
    -Keep operating costs as low as possible, so that the majority of BID levy can be spent on the projects that make a difference.
    -Generate at least £30,000 a year in sponsorship and advertising income to help cover the costs of the BID and deliver better projects.

    Could it be argued that this prospectus formed part of a contract with the business owners of Abingdon which on a number of the points the BID was in breach of?
    If so, surely that paves the way for action towards a refund?
    The BID was a bad idea from start to finish and now, in line with Abingdon best practice, it looks like it may have been run at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

  7. Deedee

    Exactly PPJS, it was destined to fail from day one!
    The towns traders did not want this, it was imposed on them by the same pathetic bunch of no hopers who morph themselves from one failed group to another, not a one of them having a hapeth of initiative or idea except on how to perpetuate and feed their own egos!
    As I see it there are four protagonist who, apart from being brought to book, should hang their heads in shame.
    Firstly the two town traders who betrayed their fellow business folk by pushing this through, but worse still had the audacity to become board advisory members! Without naming names one has a business in the precinct, the other in Bath St,
    Next is the district councillor for North Abingdon who was the councils representative on the board from wher he observed this betrayal for 18 months and failed to act, he needs de selecting!
    Fourthly and most important of all is the chair of Abingdon bid company who, as director and person of significant control, witness all of this and did nothing! Gross negligence and even gross misconduct!
    Shame on all four of you !

  8. Reductio ad absurdum

    Much as I tend to agree with you on this occasion Deedee, I do have to say if traders didn’t want it why on earth didn’t they get off their arses and vote NO when they had the chance? I seem to remember it was a pretty close vote with a low turnout swung by the support.of Waitrose (who were bribed with the promise of a capped levy) and the council..
    None of that excuses those, who you rightly point out, seem to have acted against the best interest of trade in Abingdon but there was a very real chance for us not to be here having this discussion if people had done a bit of research into other BIDs and acted accordingly like those (publicly accused of being ‘verbal terrorists’ by those you refer to above) who were against the BID urged them to.

  9. Deedee

    I see and accept where you’re coming from reductio, the protagonists were guilty of gerrymandering just as traders could be accused of lethargy, but.
    When the bid was first suggested by this lot they conducted a straw poll among traders, traders voted against it so they moved the bid zone to remove the no voters from the proposed zone, they then did another straw poll, still the no voters were most so they tempted the two biggest rate payers (who were voting no) namely Waitrose and the crown & thistle with a caped levy and promise a seat on the board in exchange for their yes vote, another straw poll and still the no votes were the majority so they then persuaded the three councils to include their property in the equation, the council yes vote was enough to push it trough, it’s a disgrace and the four I mentioned should have a claim against them,
    Even more bizarre is the fact the chair of ab bid ltd ( also chair of friends of Abingdon) presided over the appointment of company directly to the bid ltd of the manager who is the wife of the director of the company the chair sub contracted to implement and run the thing! Talk about conflict of interest, not even Philip green would have got away with that !
    Let’s not also forget the two towns traders mentioned were complicit in sending court papers to a well know trader who refused to pay the levy, their conduct has been appalling and they should not get away with this!


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