Request to County Hall to amend for their unfairness re last year's Parish Poll(March 03, 2011)
The following letter has been sent to County Hall asking for them to make amends for their poor treatment of the town in last year's parish poll. Our town council has been informed of the request and it has been suggested that they contact anyone involved in the proposed Assembly Rooms fiasco advising that there could be a delay or cancellation.......
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To the Chief executive,
County Hall, Trowbridge
Last year Warminster staged its first ever parish poll on the town council’s plan to move to the Assembly Rooms.
Despite very limited time to publicise this poll more than 500 people went to the single polling station and the result was a decisive 92 per cent vote against the council’s proposal.
Despite this strong evidence of public will, the town council, encouraged by County Hall, has continued to press on with its plan.
It has two main excuses for doing so. The first was a so-called consultation exercise which was tailor-made to deliver the ‘evidence’ the town council required to legitimise its view and is thus no evidence at all.
The second was the low turnout of the parish poll at around 5 per cent.
Those who wish to rubbish the democratic will of the people have set great store by this and used this as an excuse for progressing with this scheme.
In retrospect I believe Wiltshire Council has been complicit with them and that a challenge to the Local Government Ombudsman is now in order.
The reason for the matter being raised with the Ombudsman is that two Wiltshire Communities were treated very differently when it came to organising a parish poll.
In Bradford-on-Avon, where a parish poll was staged on the same day as the one in Warminster, the proponents of the poll were given three weeks to inform people.
However in Warminster this was not the case and it was in fact quite remarkable that so many people turned out.
I was the main instigator of the parish poll in Warminster yet I was only informed of the date of the poll eight days before the vote. I opened the letter telling me of the vote on the Wednesday evening – too late to enable the information to be included in the only remaining edition of the Warminster Journal before the poll. The Journal is the vessel which almost everyone in the town uses for their supply of news. Many, many who wanted to vote were unable to because they did not know the poll was taking place.
Warminster had to pay £3,000 for this poll yet its population was treated with contempt by those taking decisions and we were treated significantly less favourably than Bradford-on-Avon. While Wiltshire Council may have met the letter of the law, in manipulating the dates, making it hard for us to get a good turnout it was wrong to treat us less fairly than people in a neighbouring town. You say ‘everybody matters’ but clearly we mattered less than folk in Bradford-on-Avon.
I would like to stage a further parish poll.
To avoid a complaint to the ombudsman on the grounds above this poll should be staged free of charge to the town council and at the same time as the proposed vote on the electoral system in May.
You must be aware that it is completely out of order for you to treat one community fairly and dump on another in this way and I sure you’ll accept that there is a fair chance the Ombudsman will issue a finding of 'maladministration causing injustice' against you.
If so, such a finding will be highly embarrassing for you and it could sour relations between the town and county council following the 2013 elections when a new broom will surely be sweeping through the town.
I await your comments.
Former county councillor Warminster West