Following the resignations of Trevor Childs and David Gibbon, there are two “casual” vacancies on Much Wenlock Town Council. Here is a real opportunity to get more fresh blood onto our council, bringing new ideas and renewed energy to its deliberations.
So, what has the Town Council done to attract interest? First of all, there have been notices displayed on the notice board under the Corn Exchange. How often do you stop and read them?
Secondly, there’s an article in the April edition of the Wenlock Herald – tucked in after pieces written about the Gaskell Recreation Ground, Town Council surgeries and CCTV.
Is that it? Shropshire Council’s advice (which is on Much Wenlock Town Council’s website – see B1) says that town/parish councils must advertise the vacancy. This should be done by displaying a notice …… in places that are as conspicuous as possible within the parish. So, unless anyone knows different, the Town Council believes that “conspicuous places” do not include Bourton, Homer and Callaughton. The housing estates in the town – Havelock Crescent, Southfield Road, Hodgecroft Estate, Hunters Gate, Falcons Court, Walton Hills and Oakfield Park – are clearly felt insignificant in terms of local democracy although, happily, two of the remaining Town Councillors live on these estates.
The Town Council’s own Councillor Vacancy Policy states that “When a casual vacancy occurs the Town Clerk will advertise the vacancy, by public notice, on the Town Council’s notice boards, on the Council’s website and in the local press under ‘Public Notices’. (LGA 1972 s232)”. A careful search hasn’t revealed anything in the press, but there’s a chance that it has been hidden away somewhere inconspicuous.
The very fact that there are vacancies – three since the elections in May 2017 – seems to indicate that something is wrong – see Annual Town meeting myth-buster. Indeed, the Civic Society, in the April edition of the Wenlock Herald says:
“Local people are also expressing concern that further vacancies have again arisen on Much Wenlock Town Council. If the changes are once again a result of personal conflict between council members then this is a serious concern to us all. The rapid turnover in the membership of the Town Council in recent years has not helped to provide consistent action on policy or confidence in the workings of local democracy.”
So, surely now is the time for the Town Council to ensure that local folk have a clear understanding that there are two vacancies, and that they have the opportunity of standing for election and making a difference? Is that too much to ask? And maybe newly-elected councillors will seize the chance to make the Town Council more welcoming and inclusive.