Thursday, 24 May 2012

Questions in the press

I was approached by a journalist yesterday to see if I would reply to a couple of statements made by two FTC Councillors who opposed the split of our Mayorship and Chairmanship.   I publish here what I was asked and my reply:

"Rita Shearn says she would not be Mayor because under the new set up the Mayor would not be allowed to speak for the council and this would make it impossible for her to represent the people who elected her. Frank Pennington says he would not be Mayor because for the last 12 months the council had been "run by one man"  (you) and that as Mayor he would have been expected to be your "puppet." Neither of them think the changes will be good for Frodsham.  Would you like to respond?"

The reply I sent was:

"Many thanks for your email.  It will come as no surprise if I disagree with what is suggested.  You will be aware that this issue about the separation of the Mayor and Chairman has been long debated by FTC.  It was voted through 7-5 in April and the motion to overturn that decision was defeated last night 10-6.  It is a matter of great regret to me that some of those who lost the vote and whose views did not prevail have displayed a degree of unnecessary petulance. I thought Cllr Bondi had it right last night when he accepted the Deputy Mayorship.  He had voted against the split - but accepted the decision of the majority and the offer of the Deputy Mayorship.  He made the telling point that being the Deputy Mayor and representing Frodsham was a great honour.  He also made the point about putting the community above oneself and being selfless.   I completely agree with him.

The suggestion that any councillor who undertakes the role of Mayor can't speak up for the people that elected him or her is simply wrong.   The point made by Cllr Shearn regarding 'speaking for the council' perhaps shows a misunderstanding of the civic role of the Mayor.  I can't think of any civic occasion I attended in the last year when there was a need for the Mayor to speak 'for the council.'  When performing the civic role you spend a lot of time thanking and encouraging people and promoting Frodsham - you don't spend your time making great speeches about council policy.  In fact if you did you wouldn't get invited back.  However this is also a non-point as under our new arrangements the Mayor is also the Deputy Chairman and so could speak for the council should the need arise in that capacity.

Cllr Pennington absented himself from the Mayoral Investiture yesterday - the only Councillor to do so.  I think that showed great disrespect to the council and to our Mayorship.  His point about the council being run by one man is complete nonsense.  The vast majority of the significant changes we brought about this year were voted through either unanimously or with large majorities - that doesn't happen with a one-man show.   I think Cllr Pennington's comment is more about producing sound bites than a reflection on reality.  As you know I announced a long time ago that I wouldn't be seeking any senior role within FTC this year.  I committed to giving the council one year of significant effort.  That is exactly what I have done.  I will be taking up a senior position at CWaC which is all about delivering localism.   I will therefore be taking a back seat a FTC for a while.   

If Cllr Pennington wants to be someone's puppet - that is a matter for him - however I won't be pulling the strings.     

I find the whole turn of events very sad.  The whole council would have supported both Cllrs Shearn and Pennington as Mayor and Deputy Mayor unanimously.  In April they were with the other councillors who voted unanimously to accept the convention as a way of offering the Mayorship - but less than a month later they didn't follow what they had voted for - just try following that logic.

However whilst I'm sure neither Cllr Lynn Riley nor Cllr Graham Bondi walked into the meeting last night thinking they would emerge with a civic role I am delighted that they have.  I am also delighted that Cllr Mark Warren is to be our new Chairman of the council.  With Mark, Lynn and Graham taking centre stage Frodsham Town Council couldn't be in better hands going forward."