Forum Owner / Moderator
Posted - 31 Jan 2015 : 15:31:49
| The bellicose response from the Parish Clerk to a valid question raised by a Forum member on the APC Forum is, I’m afraid, just a smokescreen to hide the unpalatable truth that APC appears once again to have been less than frank with the public, albeit possibly unwittingly in the case of the Chairman who may have been fed incorrect or incomplete information.
The Clerk and at least one councillor opposed the concept of an APC Forum right from the beginning but, in the spirit of openness, the then Chairman and the majority of councillors wished to use such a facility on the Angmering Forums until such time as they established a similar forum of their own.
In the past, the Clerk has always refused to post a response himself although clearly drafting many of the responses for the Chairman to post. So why, after all these years has the Clerk decided to respond to a question. Is it because the Chairman was so embarrassed after she found out the true facts following her original posting regarding the Council non-attendance at the Referendum count that she did not want to compromise herself further? I have always found the present Chairman to be honest, transparent, and industrious.
The Clerk’s response seeks to gloss over the serious error of judgement that led to the shambles of APC’s non-attendance at the Referendum. It also tries to mitigate the fact that erroneous information was probably given to councillors (if given at all!) after ADC had made it quite clear to APC, more than a month in advance, that APC could attend the Referendum count – ADC are the people who are quite experienced in the protocol of such matters.
The response also tries to deflect attention away from APC suggesting that they should not be criticised because of the high YES vote achieved at the Referendum. However, this was not so much an endorsement of APC but more of a wish to send a clear message to ADC over their disgraceful actions last year, and to endeavour to protect Angmering from more excessive housing in the future. But people are tired of these “economies of truth” and “misunderstandings”. From its response, it would appear that APC is trying to take complete credit for the Neighbourhood Plan which is an insult and an injustice to all those non-APC villagers who worked on it.
Further, the response states incorrectly that the Forum was set up “in order to give the members of the public the chance to ask genuine questions about the work of the Parish Council”. That wasn’t the sole reason. It was also agreed by APC, again in the spirit of transparency, that Forum members could ask a question about its functions or actions (see APC Forum Rules) – and this is what the questioner did in the current case. APC is therefore reneging on its own Rules.
While one or two councillors and the Clerk originally did not like the concept of anonymous posts, the Council nevertheless agreed to the Angmering Forum Rules allowing such posts. The Clerk – presumably with the whole Council’s agreement – has now said “Questions may be asked of the parish council of course, but any anonymous queries will not be answered”. Nor will any be answered if the Council thinks it undermines them. As owner of the Angmering Forums, this is totally unacceptable to me. APC is therefore reneging in accepting the Rules of the Angmering Forums and its own original undertaking. On this point it should be added that if a valid question has been made, it should not matter whether the questioner has given a name or is anonymous. Indeed, who is to say that a provided full name is actually a real name or a pseudonym – it is nigh impossible to determine – so APC’s argument lacks validity.
Answers to questions posed since the APC Forum was established in 2010 were initially good but, in recent times, many responses (but not all) have been evasive or totally unsatisfactory.
Summarising, Angmering Parish Council:
The continuance of APC’s presence on the Forums is now untenable as far as I am concerned. Accordingly, and with reluctance, ANGMERING PARISH COUNCIL HAS NOW BEEN SUSPENDED FROM OPERATING THE APC FORUM for non-compliance with its own Rules and those of the Angmering Forums, the quality of their past responses, and their intended selectiveness of answering future questions.
- has again been found to be less than frank and/or has obscured information provided to the public
- is reneging on the agreed type of questions which may be asked on the APC Forum
- is intending to renege on the acceptance of anonymous questioners
- has increasingly provided less than satisfactory answers to queries which I believe to be against the spirit of transparency and which was one of the intensions of originally setting up the APC Forum
- will not answer any postings if, in their opinion, they feel it undermines them
I doubt whether this will be of concern to some members of APC as ending the cooperation has clearly been an objective for some years, but an excuse was needed to trigger action. APC’s non-attendance at the Referendum count is not in itself of enormous significance, but has proved to be the catalyst for bringing matters to a head.