10.10.2001 - Letter to Mayor Melvyn Howell, Chairman of Council Meeting 9 October 2001

37 Church Road
Royal Tunbridge Wells

e-mail: telephonehouse@cs.com
internet: http://uk.geocities.com/telephonehouse

Councillor Melvyn Howell
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Town Hall TN1 1RS

10 October2001

Dear Sir

Council Meeting 9 October 2001

We attended the Council Meeting and are disappointed that our questions could not be answered then. As the questions were based on the minutes of the 26 July Operational Service Board Meeting, contained in the agenda for yesterday’s meeting, it was physically impossible to send in our questions on time.

08.10.01 Questions from THNA for Council Meeting on Tuesday 9 October 2001
BUT - Questions were "stood over" to next Council Meeting on Tuesday 4 December 2001

We called at the Town Hall on Wednesday 3 October and were told that the Agenda and Summons were not yet available. This is perhaps not surprising since the Chief Executive only signed the formal letter to Members on 2 October and thereafter the Agenda and Summons had to be printed. Thus we only received it on Friday 5 October.

We are sorry that you were only made aware of our letter 30 minutes before the start of yesterday’s Council Meeting [ 9.10.2001 ]. We presume, however, that our letter must have been opened when it was received at the opening of business on Monday [ 8.10.2001 ]. You may wish to enquire why a Council officer did not see fit to advise you immediately, but to conceal its contents for two working days.

We wonder also why three questions for Councillors which related to the conduct of officers, needed answers prepared by those officers. The questions did not need answers from officers and indeed so far as question 3.) is concerned we would have thought that Members would wish all officers to be absent themselves from the Chamber so that an uninhibited debate could take place about whether an inquiry should be held into the conduct of officers.

We also wonder why you were advised, presumably by Council officers, that you could not relax the three day rule to let the questions be put? We would have thought it must have been open to Members to vote to relax the rule.

May we, with due respect, suggest you seek independent legal advice since we doubt the accuracy of the advice given to you? Indeed, when Mr McGeary, Committee Member Services Manager, came up to the Public Gallery, he suggested that you, as Chairman, could use your discretion to allow the questions. Therefore it was left in your responsibility to allow them.

We have heard on a number of occasions that agendas for Council and Committee Meetings in the Borough are available to Members only very shortly beforehand, leaving too little time to consider them. We imagine there must be a rule about circulation of agendas. If this rule provides for three working days it would appear that it was broken prior to yesterday’s meeting and it could be argued that the proceedings were thus ultra vires and void.

If Members received the agenda for yesterday’s meeting more than three days beforehand why was it withheld from the public?

We are sorry to trouble you, but it seems to us that you may have been deliberately misled by the advice given to you.

With all due respect, we would like to suggest a thorough overhaul of the procedure to facilitate Members of the Public to address Councillors at Council Meetings.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Annemarie Topliss

cc Archie Norman, MP - Cllr Scholes, Leader of the Council - Cllrs Price, Lynes, Wakefield - Catt, Mills

During summer/autumn 2001, after the Public Inquiry - The attitude of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's
Chief Executive and Director of Operational Services towards Residents

Could the Inspector's decisions have been challenged ?
The Minutes of Operational Services Board Meeting, 26 July 2001:
- Planning Appeal Decision for Telephone House, Church Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells

The Telephone House Neighbours Association, Tunbridge Wells
The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the high-density development on Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1.