• The curious case of the disappearing agenda item 11:

    The truth behind the Council debate that never was …

    Forgive me if what follows is a little convoluted, but it is a tale of political skulduggery that needs to be told somewhere and is unlikely to be told elsewhere. It is unlikely to be told elsewhere because yours truly happens to be one of very few councillors to think that the mayoral system is the right one for the Bay, and is the only councillor that is not subject to a political group leader.

    Last Thursday’s Full Council meeting was due to consider item 11 ‘Referendum on future forms of governance: to consider the submitted report on the different forms of governance and the outcome of the consultation exercise to enable the Council to determine which form of governance will be included in the referendum’. However, following a farcical and lengthy mid-meeting adjournment, it was pulled by one or more of the political group leaders (note: not by the mayor). The Chairman of the Council stated simply that the item had been withdrawn – omitting the key fact, by whom. By withdrawing the item from the agenda and depriving councillors of the opportunity to debate the item, the group leader(s) hope to get away with the most breath-taking piece of anti-democratic political fixing that I have ever come across in my nine years as a councillor.

    We have to go back to the Full Council meeting in July to find the root of the decision to withdraw item 11. Desperately frustrated that the voting public had once again endorsed mayor Oliver at the May elections, a rag bag of cross-party back-benchers rushed to force the mayor into the earliest possible referendum on the future of the mayoralty post 2019 (2019 is the earliest possible time for the dismantling of the elected mayoral form of governance allowed by statute, and which was introduced in 2005 following a referendum).

    The pretext for the rush was that the ‘only’ opportunity to do the referendum on the cheap was to do it next year (2016) at the same time as the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Of course, this is completely untrue as, for example, there will also be an opportunity to hold the referendum at the same time as the in-out European Union election in 2017.

    At the July meeting, Councillor Mark King, supported by me and other democratically-minded councillors, suggested an amendment that enabled the Council to gather a little more information. The amendment wording included: While recognising that the current mayoral system of governance cannot be changed until 2019, there is a groundswell of opinion that the Council should review its current mayoral system of governance. We also need to take into account the new political landscape and the Government’s policy for greater powers to larger authorities with elected mayors; the current work of the mayor and his executive; and further guidance from central Government. Therefore the assistant director (corporate and business services) should provide a report to Council in September.

    This would have ensured a sound basis for public consultation on the future of the Bay mayoralty. However, the majority of councillors (including Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Brixham independents) decided that they would not be delayed by sensible caution, and threw out the amendment.

    The July decision was rushed through to enable a public consultation on what the alternative to a mayoral system at the town hall might look like. In order to decide what the final referendum question to the voters might be, we need to be clear what alternative system should be offered on the ballot paper. Should it be a Leader with Cabinet system (items decided in secret behind closed doors by the majority elected party), or should it be an old-fashioned Soviet style Committee system with no-one to blame for anything?

    This, essentially was the question that, following the decision of the July council meeting, was put out to public consultation. And guess what? The overwhelming majority of the public who responded to the consultation selected the committee system over the Leader and Council model. Small wonder really, I strongly suspect that two words, Chris and Harris, sprang readily to mind. Chris Harris was the last example of a Leader of a Cabinet-style of governance in Torbay. Yes, you remember – 16 per cent increases in council tax, peremptory closing of public loos, 60 per cent increases in councillor allowances, the cross being removed from the crematorium …

    However, and here is the rub, the Committee system is much, much more expensive than the mayoral system in terms of support from council officers and staff. In these straightened financial times, the group leader(s) have belatedly realised that asking the public to choose between a mayoral system, or a highly expensive Committee system (apparently more than twice as much as a mayoral system and almost four times as expensive as a leader and cabinet system) will see the mayoralty get voters’ support. In short, there is the strongest possible chance that their plans to bring down the mayoralty will be thwarted once and for all.

    So what to do for the group leader(s) who are now in disarray? Well, they are now claiming that they need more information (funny that: Councillor King and others, including me, pointed that out back in July but we were voted down); and that the debate needs to be put on hold (funny that: Councillor King and others, including me, pointed that out, too, back in July. Again, we were voted down).

    Make no mistake, group leader(s) have taken a leaf out of the EU’s book: if the public don’t come up with the ‘right’ decision, ignore them. Or make them vote again until they get it ‘right’.

    Apparently, the enemies of democracy are everywhere.

    Remember, you read it here first. And, probably, nowhere else at all.

    It is a source of chagrin to me that the vast majority of people in our Bay are being kept in the dark over this, and many other important matters. Social media means that, often, a perverted version of what is going on is put out as ‘truth’ by certain people; a similar thing might be said to be going on at the local paper where they simply don’t have the journalistic staff to properly research stories; and – almost a decade since I was first elected – I am still the only local Torbay Council councillor with his own website with a properly searchable archive of news, opinion and assessment, dating back to 2006.

    1 Comment

    • 1. Sep 28 2015 4:17PM by Jen Walsh

      Well said Julien


Julien Parrott, UKIP

Councillor for Ellacombe Ward, 2007 to date
Executive Lead for Adults and Children
Torbay Borough Council Unitary Authority

julien campaign

11 November 2017

A brief update ...

I realise that I keep apologising for not maintaining this website! I really hope that I will be able to do something with it in the near future, but I know that my fellow Ellacombe residents understand that my priority is with my ward work and with my work for children and adults across the Bay as Executive Lead councillor.

In the meantime, an update for my fellow Ellacombe residents: please note that my contact details have changed. If you want to discuss a local issue with me, please see below for my new contact arrangements.

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Cllr Julien Parrott, Torbay Council, Town Hall, Torquay TQ1 3DR

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01803 389624 (Mon-Fri, daytime)

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I am also generally available each Monday between 12 noon and 1pm at the Office of William Dartmouth MEP, at 49 Market Street, Torquay TQ1 3AW

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During the Civic Year

2013-2014, I had the honour of being elected Chairman of Torbay Council.

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