No more ‘any other business’ for parish councils whilst village sign may get spruced up if prisoners get some paint

JOBSWORTHS have clearly moved in on parish councils and if you need evidence of such consider the rather curious insistence of clerk Terry Jordan to remove the time honoured ‘any other business’ from agendas.

In a catch all sweep Mr Jordan has also removed ‘matters arising’ and ‘urgent business’ to move away from such “vague agenda items which are not considered to be good practice.”

He says such items “do not make members of the public aware of the nature of the business to be transacted and the decisions to be taken at the meeting. Local councils are not permitted to make unexpected decisions.”

Best not to take issue with Mr Jordan whose esteemed background includes substantive experience with Fenland Council (until his post got dropped) Cambridgeshire County Council, where he now works too and not to mention Elm where he also serves as parish clerk.

His ruling may be academic to at least one Manea councillor, Pop Jolley, who is serving a four month suspension following a standards committee hearing at ‘the Other Place’ (Fenland Hall). Word is Cllr Jolley is unlikely to return to the parish council but no matter.

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The grapevine at Fenland Hall suggests such is the anger felt towards those who pursued the complaint that to show solidarity and support in the higher echelons of Tory High Command a promotion to Cabinet sometime this year is not ruled out.

MEANWHILE Chatteris Town Council has problems of its own- or at least two of its members do, Councillor Chris Howe and his partner Councillor Christine Colbert.

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Cllr Howes explained to a recent meeting that Cllr Colbert was not present because the building site at their home had been targeted by thieves on three occasions since a previous council meeting.

Parish clerk Joanna Melton noted in the minutes that this “now necessitated one or other of them keeping a watch on the site all the time.”

CHATTERIS continues to celebrate saving its sorting office and Mrs Melton has recorded some of the input prior to the decision.

She reports that union official Andy Beeby came to a town council and observed that “Royal Mail has finally conceded that Chatteris would not fit into March.

“They then proposed Wisbech but this did not cost in and would not happen. The next idea was to put Chatteris into Huntingdon, along with Ramsey.”

Mrs Melton said this wouldn’t work either “as the cost would be prohibitive or it would mean a 30 mile round trip.”

Game, set and match then to Chatteris.

COUNCILLORS in Wisbech St Mary worried about delays to work on the village sign have been told another solution must be found.

The parish council was told that prisoners who had previously worked on the sign had been forced to stop as prison authorities “could not afford the paint.”

This, of course, brought a major problem into focus and prompted a hurried debate among the councillors.

It was agreed the clerk would contact the prison to ask how much the paint might cost: he who pays the painter calls to the tune then.

LITTLE by way of fines being handed to dog owners whose pets foul of Fenland’s footpaths and recreation grounds though plenty of activity by the council’s street scene teams.

That’s your diarist’s assessment following a trawl through a couple of town councils where dog fouling has been raised.

Street scene officers told March Town Council that in some areas patrols have been stepped up and in some instances dog bags handed out to encourage “responsible dog ownership.”

Actually catching them in the act is proving difficult by in March officers say they have “spoken to 21 dog owners” which I suppose is progress of sorts.

In Chatteris the town council had Fenland Council’s head environmental honcho Richard Cassidy present who said he was looking at whether there were further enforcement powers the council could take: one idea was to explore the possibility of a campaign celebrating responsible dog ownership.

JOLLY decent of the staff committee of Fenland Council to save a commendable �188,000 a year but quite how they did is something they feel unable to share with the rest of us.

“Members considered the Leisure Services Staffing Review report,” says the minutes of a recent meeting. “Members made comments, asked questions and received responses from officers.”

And that was that basically with the only proviso being that council officials will, at some point, provide staff committee members “with the costs associated with redundancies borne by the council.”

Apart from that councillors “noted” the report, “noted the efficiency savings as a result of the proposals” and following a 10am start were packed up and gone within the hour.

Quite why Councillor Mike Cornwell even bothered to turn up is the mystery of the day since he “declared a personal and prejudicial interest in this item, by virtue of a close relative being employed by the Council, and retired from the meeting for the duration.”

DECENT pay day for Chatteris snooker ace Joe Perry who, I discovered, picked up a cool �10,000 for getting to the quarter finals of the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals.

He only exited the tournament – played in the quintessentially Irish town of Galway- after losing to friend and practice partner Neil Robertson.

Now Joe is off to China and hoping for a share of the �400,000 prize money on offer in the China Open. A quarter final place there would also guarantee him a �10,000 pay day with �75,000 on offer to the winner and �30,000 to the runner up.

BRAKESPEARE’S Roll of Olympic Honour to salute the magnificent eight who have been chosen to represent the best of Fenland and to carry the Olympic torch for part of its journey.

Tom Baty, 28, Ely, formerly Wisbech

Mark Spinks, 47, Walpole Highway

Jacqui Fairfax, March

Ian Groome, 54, March

David White, 54, March

Robyn Joly, 70, March

Charles Cattell, 66, Wisbech.

Matthew Dawson, 16, Wisbech

THE team that handles Freedom of Information requests at Shire Hall must tire, one suspects, of the mundane questions they get asked.

This week, for example, someone asked “how many councillors does your council have at full strength?” where a simple click on the website would have revealed the answer to be 69, and a secondary question, of current vacancies, would have shown there are none.

The same questioner asked how many councillors are “currently married and how many councillors are currently in a civil partnership?” and I fully expected a ‘mind your own bl**d*n*” business response.

Looking through recent requests I suppose I was mildly enthused to find 5,514 motorists last year successfully challenged parking fines handed out by Cambridgeshire County Council.

In the same period 15,102 parking fines were disputed but we’re told to be careful what we assume from such statistics.

“Each time contact is received about a dispute it is recorded,” says the council. “Please note, however, that several calls plus evidence may be received for each fixed penalty notice, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that 15,101 fines were disputed.”

Still even allowing for some duplication the odds seem good on successfully challenging a parking ticket and that consoles me greatly.

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