Parish council fails to win vote of confidence
- Credit: East Cambs
Where now for Wilburton?
The question uppermost in most villagers minds after a parish poll failed to offer a vote of confidence in its parish council.
Just under a third of villagers voted in the June 10 poll, deciding by a narrow margin against the parish council.
The question was posed as to whether the village “has confidence that the current Wilburton parish council acts in a way that is democratic, accountable and transparent”.
The poll was called following the results of a survey last year and subsequent decision by the parish council to support the Camps Field housing development.
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The polling station at St Peters Hall in Wilburton opened at 4pm and closed at 9pm.
The verification/count venue was at St Peters Hall in Wilburton.
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“Verification was completed, and the turnout was announced as 30.03 per cent,” said a statement from East Cambs Council that oversaw the poll.
At 9.40pm, the deputy counting officer for East Cambs Council, Emma Grima, declared the result.
*The total number of ballot paper counted was 310.
*The number of votes cast in favour of a YES was 148.
*The number of votes cast in favour of NO was 160.
*The total number of rejected ballot papers rejected was 2.
“The question has been rejected,” she announced.
Save Wilburton from Overdevelopment, the group that backed the call for a poll, said in a statement afterwards: “Wilburton Parish Poll Vote of No Confidence passed.
“A majority felt that Wilburton Parish Council has not acted in a democratic, accountable and transparent manner.”
At the heart of the issue is whether the parish council (already depleted in numbers) was right to back the 115 homes proposed for Camps Field – that includes community land trust housing - despite their own survey showing opposition to it.
The parish council survey received 179 responses, from 99 households with 135 opposed to it and only 33 in favour.
The council wrote to East Cambs Council supporting the scheme.
“The councillors of Wilburton parish council discussed the application and are unanimously in favour of the application,” was their verdict in an email to the district council last May.
That decision led to a vote of no confidence being passed at the annual parish meeting in April of this year.
The formal parish poll yesterday followed.
Outline planning for Camps Field is being considered under a scheme drawn up by the community land trust in conjunction with Laragh Homes and was endorsed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.
Although the parish council has no direct say in whether the scheme will be approved, the essence of community land trust developments is that they must show evidence of local support.
Former East Cambs Council leader Charles Roberts chairs the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust (SWCLT) and has been a major campaigner to win over the village.
Indeed, part of his remit in his most recent role – that of the £54,000 a year, four day a week housing adviser to former mayor James Palmer – was to develop the community land trust model.
SWCLT has told East Cambs Council that it is satisfied the scheme was initiated by, and is being led by, a “legitimate local community group” and has “general community support, with evidence of meaningful public engagement”.
With the results of a parish survey and a parish poll now in, that contention looks seriously challenged.
An eve of poll leaflet circulated around the village was headed ‘Make Wilburton Nice Again!”.
That may not, judging by the social media comments in recent hours, be anytime soon.
Save Wilburton from over development believes that fresh elections are needed for the parish council.
They believe these "are likely to hold the promise of community reconciliation and provide a better grounds for democratic consent regarding decisions about the future of our community.
"We would hope that if new elections took place, a representative group with lots of diverse opinions would put themselves forward, and then would be better placed to help the village come together and put all this regrettable upset behind us."