Chairmen's statements leave questions unanswered following resignation of clerk
|From left to right: current Chairman Stuart Gemmill, Clerk Carol Smy, |
Vice-Chair Olly Last and former Chair Nick Stones
Gemmill is quoted as saying:
During my previous term as Chairman of the Parish Council, I looked forward to the monthly meetings with a group of community minded members all dedicated to the wellbeing and the further development of Stradbroke. At that time I was ably assisted by Barbara Moore and Pam Cane as Parish Clerks. I gave up the chairmanship when my role at Mid Suffolk intensified such that there could have been conflict of interest. Thus it was that when I retired from the District Council, and following an election, I thought it would be nice to take over once again the role of Chairman working alongside our good friend Carol as Clerk. I believe we all were hoping that following the election, things would settle down, but sadly as we are all aware, they have not. Consequently, it shouldn’t have come as a great surprise that Carol, having put up with a great deal of bad behaviour over the last two years, felt that she had to resign. I feel personally very sad that she is leaving as she has been of great service to Stradbroke over a number of years. She will be very hard to replace.The article also quotes former Council Chairman Nick Stones:
In the 28 years I have been on the Council things have changed a great deal, gone are the days of half a page for a agenda and a quick ring round to Councillors to short (sic) out any issues. Since Carol became the Parish Clerk we have all been very impressed by the way she has carried out the duties of her Office. Over the last 3 years when I had the privilege to be Chairman. I relied on Carol's advice and support many times, no query was too much trouble and she guided the Council to fulfil all it's duties and comply with all the new legislation. The last 18 months have not been easy and I pay tribute to her patience and fortitude as most people would have resigned long ago. I would like to thank Carol for her help while I was Chairman and most of all for her friendship.Neither statement addresses the reasons behind Smy's departure other than to mention difficulties during the last eighteen months in a manner that sounds like they were caused by forces of nature out of the control of Gemmill and Stones.
It is hard to reconcile these statements with reality and indeed with Carol Smy's own statement:
I had hoped that the election in May would have signalled a new start but that has not happened; things have gone into reverse.Stuart Gemmill has to take some responsibility for what has happened since his election at the annual council meeting. The first meeting under his watch saw an ambush to oust the four Stradbroke monthly editors, a further 20 minute discussion about the magazine and an extraordinary meeting called and then cancelled amid acrimony.
Writing to the editors of the Stradbroke Monthly Gemmill then attempted to deny the ambush had happened:
The two volunteers who offered their services to edit the Stradbroke Monthly have been criticised and verbally abused via social media and the like for being part of an “ambush” by members of the Parish Council to take over the magazine. As a consequence of this they have withdrawn their offer of help.
As Chairman of the Council I would like to assure you that there was no planned ambush. The acrimonious debate arose following a number of complaints of bias over the past twelve months.The Parish Pump report of the council meeting written by the Council for the Stradbroke Monthly then completely ignored the magazine discussion even though it had dominated the meeting. The Council's preferred website has also failed to mention the magazine issues at all.
The June meeting saw a further 30 minute debate about the magazine with no resolution and the issue is to come back again in July.
Wiser leadership would have avoided picking the scab of the magazine at this time or at least acted after the May meeting to try and resolve the issues ahead of the June meeting. As things ended up anyone present at the June meeting and witnessing the statement from the magazine editors and subsequent debate could see exactly why the clerk decided to resign.
The council isn't going to be able to address these issues that it has until it first accepts there is an problem and secondly until all councillors accept their share of responsibility for the state the council is in. Sadly these statements appear to show some councillors have a long way to go before that happens.
Both statements appear to hark back to a by-gone golden age where everything was perfect and see new legislation, social media and all forms of change as the cause of problems. It seems to me difficult to see the current leadership as part of the solution. My view is that the council should make a break with the past and elect new leaders at the July meeting who can look forward rather than back and embrace rather than try to stop change.