Saturday, 2 March 2013

Thursday 28th February 2013

Parish council payout
to rebel member it tried to ban

JON GRIFFIN - Business Staff

A "playground" parish pump dust-up in a genteel Warwickshire village has left taxpayers with a bill of thousands of pounds -after a ban on a veteran councillor was overturned following a High Court skirmish.

Henley-in-Arden Parish Council has lost a landmark battle against rebel Councillor Bill Leech after being branded 'dysfunctional' by Stratford District Council.

Independent group Councillor Leech was accused of harassment and bullying parish clerk Jenny Walsh after he argued in a lengthy campaign that the running costs of Beaudesert and Henley Joint Parish Council were too high.

Coun Leech says that since 2000, Henley Parish Council has spent £280,000 more than its counterpart in Tanworth-in-Arden, which has a larger population. The increasingly acrimonious spat led to Councillor Leech being banned by the ruling group from key council activities, including visiting the parish office, sitting on council committees or communicating with the parish clerk.

But Coun Leech emerged triumphant after taking the council to the High Court in Birmingham in protest at the ban, which he claimed was illegal. The council has agreed to pay £8,000 towards his costs and to lift the ban after agreeing an out of court settlement.

He said after the out of court settlement: "There has been a shameful attempt to label my campaign for economy and efficiency as harassment and bullying of the parish clerk.

"Fortunately the Stratford District / Council Standards and Ethics Committee have consistently confirmed following eight separate complaints over two years that this was not the case. In their final judgment; Stratford District Council called the Henley Parish Council "dysfunctional" and the parish clerk "provocative."

"I believe that the majority of residents now believe that we should have a new and more representative parish council which believes in democracy, economy and efficiency."

Coun Mike Willmott, who is the chairman of the Henley Independents and has known Coun Leech for over 30 years, added: "I believe it is a disgraceful abuse of the democratic process when an elected councillor is persecuted with an illegal ban for challenging the ruling group of the parish council over their spendthrift ways and whose only recourse was to instigate a judicial review of the decision.

"The Henley Independents will continue to campaign for a simpler, cheaper council that can give more money to the many deserving causes in Henley."

Former parish councillor Sue Osborne, who was on Henley Parish Council for three years and stood down at the last election in May 2012, said: "I am constantly surprised by the complete absence of reasoned discussion and debate at council meetings. The pervading atmosphere is one of bickering and point scoring which is more reminiscent of a group of six-year-olds in a school playground."

Coun Leech added: "No proper procedure was followed in advance of handing down their ban, breaking the laws relating to fair trials first established by Magna Carta in 1215 and now covered by the Human Rights Act."

A jointly agreed statement previously issued by Coun Leech and Henley Parish Council said: "Councillor Bill Leech and Beaudesert and Henley Parish Council are pleased to announce that the legal proceedings brought by Councillor Leech against Beaudesert and Henley Parish Council have been resolved.

"Councillor Leech had commenced proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of the restrictions imposed on him by the council. Without any admittance of wrongdoing and in order to save further public funds being expended the council has now agreed to lift those restrictions and to make a contribution towards the legal costs incurred by councillor Leech.

"All councillors, including councillor Leech have repeated assurances that they will abide by the Code of Conduct for councillors. Both the council and councillor Leech are pleased that this matter has been resolved and look forward to serving the interests of the people of Beaudesert and Henley in the New Year."

On January 21 council chairman Les Goodman and the vice-chairman Chris Milsom resigned their positions but remained as councillors. Alternate members from the ruling group were elected by a majority vote.

Parish clerk Jenny Walsh added: "The ban on councillor Leech was in no way connected with his alleged concerns about excessive administration costs."

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Why is Ettington Council so much more efficient?

Resident writes "JPC should be able to save £25,000 pa"

imageI have just seen an advert for Ettington and Fulready Parish Council who require a new Parish Clerk.

I was amazed and surprised to see that the post will require the Clerk to work 25-30 hours per MONTH and to work from home. 
My understanding of Henley’s situation is that our Parish Clerk works more than 30 hours per WEEK, plus we pay for a dedicated Parish Council office at a cost of around £7,000 pa.

So my question is this – whilst I appreciate that Ettington is smaller than Henley, how can it be that we need a Clerk to work more than 120 hours per month, plus the associated office costs whilst Ettington can manage their affairs on A QUARTER of these working hours each month (and no associated office costs of course)?
If our Clerk is really being kept this busy (and I have no reason to believe that she isn’t), then surely our JPC should be talking to Ettington Parish Council to see how they can handle their affairs much more efficiently, and with a correspondingly smaller workload, than we seem to be able to do.

Looking at the Local Council pay scales (as referenced in the advert), I would estimate that Henley’s total costs of employing a Parish Clerk (and the associated office accommodation) would be around £25,000 more than Ettington’s combined costs (including office accommodation). I’m sure a quick call from our JPC to Ettington Parish Council would provide a more accurate figure than this guesstimate.

In these times of austerity, and with the impending rise in the precept, I think it is imperative that the JPC should be investigating all areas of its activities and expenditure to see where it could save money.

Yours sincerely,
Henley Resident - Name and address supplied and withheld

Friday, 15 February 2013

So are JPC’s Costs Too High?

Source: Stratford District Council
Henley JPC has spent £280,000 more than Tanworth in Arden Parish Council since 2000, according to figures released by Stratford District Council, write our HI correspondent.

Prior to 2000, Tanworth in Arden Parish Council had higher parish council taxes (precepts) than Henley JPC.

Since 2000, Henley's precepts (parish council tax) have escalated and have exceeded the precepts charged by Tanworth by a total of £280,000 over this period.

Both councils serve similar sized populations of around 3,000.

The chart shows a comparison of precepts with the neighbouring parish of Tanworth in Arden. The reduction in the Henley precept in 2011/12 was due to money being drawn from reserves, so that the ‘controlling group’ could claim in the JPC Newsletter prior to the 2012 parish election that there had been cost savings, which was not the case.

Remember, over 50% of Henley and Beaudesert’s precept (the money you pay each year) is spent on administration costs. Some of this money could be put to much better use around Henley.

Report by HI Correspondent (Not the editor)

To support the Henley Independents, click here

Minister concerned about High Level of Parish Council Increases

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has told parish councils to rethink average 3% hikes to their council tax precept - which he said are outstripping levies raised by the rest of local government.
Speaking at the NALC Larger Councils' conference, Mr Pickles urged local councillors to make sure they are not overburdening residents with increased taxes.
'It hasn't escaped my noticed that, at a time when most districts are freezing their council tax, the average parish precept has gone up by 3%. And the trend is seeing parish increases outstripping the rest of local government,' said Mr Pickles.
He added the DCLG was prepared to review principles governing council tax referendums, but demanded parish councillors 'square' any rises with their electorate. 'Can you really look your local folk in the eye?' Pickles asked delegates.

“Townhalls hiking Council Tax are placing an intolerable burden on already struggling families. These tax rises hit the poorest households the hardest and after a decade in which Council Tax nearly doubled the last thing taxpayers need are further hikes.
The councils exploiting loopholes or planning increases just under the threshold to dodge referendums are showing utter contempt for local taxpayers.
The majority of councils are freezing Council Tax, some are even cutting it. The rest should follow suit rather than picking peoples pocket’s once again.”
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance

Landmark Defeat for JPC's 'Ruling Group'

IMAGEIn England there are some 8,500 parish and town councils constituted under successive Local Government Acts of Parliament. Oversight to ensure that these councils operate according to the law is provided by the Administrative Court which is part of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales. This court exercises the High Court's supervisory jurisdiction mainly through a procedure known as "judicial review" and may make mandatory orders or injunctions to compel a council to do its duty or to stop it from acting illegally.

The Administrative Court has approved and sealed the Court Order relating to the unlawful ban placed on Cllr William Leech by the Beaudesert and Henley-in-Arden Joint Parish Council (JPC). This Court Order is not a gagging order and so the full details of the case can be reported as it is no longer 'sub judice'.

Regular readers of Henley NEWS will be aware of Cllr Bill Leech’s on-going campaign against the excessive costs incurred by the Beaudesert and Henley-in-Arden Joint Parish Council.

Since Bill Leech, pictured below, was first elected in May 2008, he has maintained that the administrative costs of running the JPC are too high (especially when compared with other, similar parish councils) and that savings could be made – these savings could then be used for the benefit of the community, or as a basis to reduce the precept (the money you pay to the JPC each year).

imageAs a councillor he is entitled to challenge other councillors and the parish clerk in any way he chooses so long as he does not contravene the Council's Code of Conduct. Indeed, it should be beneficial to the whole of the JPC, and to the people of Henley and Beaudesert more generally, that someone is prepared to take enough interest in this matter.

However, Cllr Leech’s on-going questioning of the JPC’s costs has not been appreciated by those members of the JPC who established this high administrative cost base in the first place. Between 2009 and 2011 the ‘ruling group’ on the Beaudesert & Henley-in-Arden Joint Parish Council, comprising principally Cllr Les Goodman, Cllr Roger Hubbocks, Cllr George Matheou and the Parish Clerk Mrs Jenny Walsh, mounted a campaign to discredit Cllr Leech by misinterpreting Cllr Leech's campaign for economy and efficiency as 'harassment and bullying against the parish clerk'.

Eight complaints were made to the Standards and Ethics Committee of Stratford District Council against Cllr Leech, five of these by the parish clerk. All were rejected with two minor 'procedural' exceptions. Cllr Leech has always maintained these 'procedural' exceptions would have been overturned by a Judicial Review, but he served a two week ban missing only one council meeting.

In its last judgment, the Standards and Ethics Committee of Stratford District Council described the Joint Parish Council as "dysfunctional" and the parish clerk as "provocative". The cost of reviewing all these complaints was put at more than £10,000, paid for by council taxpayers. This should have been the end of the matter.

However, the ‘ruling group’, frustrated by their lack of success with the Standards & Ethics Committee, then instigated an unlawful ban on Cllr Leech preventing him from visiting the parish office, sitting on any of the council's committees or communicating with the parish clerk. This was communicated to Cllr Leech in an unsigned letter from Cllr Hubbocks (who was Chairman at the time). Cllr Leech did not challenge this unlawful ban as the 2012 parish council election was fast approaching.

At the parish council election in May 2012, Cllr Leech was re-elected and Cllr Hubbocks lost his seat. In August 2012, Cllr Les Goodman, the new chairman, imposed an indefinite and unlawful ban on Cllr Leech - preventing him from visiting the parish office, sitting on any of the council's committees or communicating with the parish clerk – this was effectively limiting Cllr Leech’s role as a parish councillor so he could not perform the role he had been elected to do.

JPC Chairman Goodman was warned 3 times that the ban was illegal
Cllr Leech wrote to Cllr Goodman advising him that the ban was illegal, and the matter would have to be referred for Judicial Review at major cost to the parish council taxpayers.

Before commencing a judicial review, the court procedure requires that one formal letter, called a pre-action protocol letter, be sent by the claimant to the defendant. The purpose of this letter is to identify the issues in dispute and establish whether litigation can be avoided. Cllr Leech wrote three such letters. The Parish Council should have taken heed of these letters, and rescinded the ban immediately. This would have avoided all the legal costs but the 'ruling group' chose to spend parish council taxpayers' money fighting an unwinnable case. Cllr Goodman dismissed the last warning letter saying, "Your letter regarding a Judicial Review must be your decision".

High Court Orders the ban to be quashed and legal costs to be paid by Council
Cllr Leech instructed leading council David Lock QC, who was selected by the Birmingham Law Society to be their “Barrister of the Year” in 2011.

After receiving the High Court papers and taking legal advice, the JPC agreed, by a majority decision, to accept a Court Order without going to trial. The Court Order required the lifting of the ban and paying £8,000 towards Cllr Leech’s legal costs.

Chairman Goodman resigns & Joint Parish Council faces a bill of about £13,500
imageThe Joint Parish Council's legal costs in defending this avoidable action including paying the claimant's legal costs are estimated to be about £13,500. It is to be hoped that the JPC will now tell residents how much of their council tax money was been spent on trying to defend their unlawful action.

On 21st January 2013 the current Chairman Cllr Les Goodman and the Vice-Chairman Cllr Chris Milsom resigned their appointments but remained as councillors. Alternate members from the ‘ruling group’ were elected by a majority vote. The parish clerk and the new vice-chairman Cllr Matheou wrote letters to the editor of the Stratford Herald which were published on Thursday 31st January whilst the matter was still 'sub-judice'.

Chairman Cllr Hubbocks has yet to write to Cllr Leech advising him that the unlawful ban has been lifted. Despite being instructed to lift the ban, pay Cllr Leech's legal costs and the former chairman resigning, the ‘ruling group’ still maintain that they have done nothing wrong.

This avoidable dispute should be seen as an investment in democracy. The price paid of £13,500 can be recouped with savings of around £20,000 per annum if more Henley Independents are elected to enable them to run the budget of the JPC.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ban on councillor contacting parish clerk goes to court

TAXPAYERS in Henley will have to cough up over £4,000 more than last year to their "dysfunctional" parish council whose action in banning one of its members from contacting the parish clerk is currently subject to a judicial review.

A 5.56 per cent increase in the council's budget was agreed at a meeting on Monday night at which both the council chairman, Cllr Les Goodman, and vice-chairman, Cllr Chris Milsom resigned in advance of the legal ruling.

The judicial review has been instigated by Cllr Bill Leech as a result of the council banning him from contacting parish clerk Jenny Walsh. The ban arose out of his campaign against the council administrative costs.

The resignations are the latest developments in a long-running dispute between Cllr Leech and the rest of the council. The council's difficulties in working together were investigated by Stratford District Council in 2011 when the parish council was described as "dysfunctional" at a meeting of the district council's standards and ethics committee.

At Monday's meeting there was standing room only as the Henley public packed into the Baptist Church Hall to see the council elect a new chairman and set its budget for 2013-14.

Cllr Roger Hubbocks was elected chairman over council newcomer, Cllr Mike Willmott. Cllr George Matheou was elected vice-chairman over Cllr Elaine Field. Chairman of Henley Independents, Cllr Willmott was first elected in a by-election last November but was disqualified after he failed to attend his first council meeting. He was then returned unopposed in a second by-election earlier this month.

The voting highlighted the deep division of the council with the four Independents voting together against the eight other councillors.

An irate Henley High Street resident, Sarah Cossey, berated them voting in their cliques. She said that at least the vice-chairman should be a Henley Independent to fairly represent the council, concluding: "Shame on you for letting Henley down yet again." This was met with applause from the public.

Before that, Cllr Goodman explained that he resigned over the judicial review into the council's treatment of Cllr Leech, currently sub judice, being considered by a judge at Birmingham Administrative Court.

Cllr Goodman said: "I obviously had great difficulty with that situation and leaving a meeting in December that did not leave me with a lot of hope, I had a difficult situation to consider.

I have spent Christmas and the New Year considering my position and I am therefore resigning as chairman."

But when he began to talk about the council's defence of the judicial review, his out-going speech was interrupted by Cllr Leech who told him that the matter was subjudice and should not be spoken about in a public meeting.

The council is requiring residents to fork out £82,412 for its 2013-14 budget, compared to the £78,070 budget for 2012-13, a 5.56 per cent increase for the 4,500 people of Henley and Beaudesert.

The four Henley Independents, particularly Cllr Elaine Field, questioned the need for such a hike considering the council will probably have around £45,000 in reserve at the end of the financial year.

Alluding to the judicial review, Cllr Matheou said: "In our case quite a lot of our reserves will disappear for something that we cannot talk about tonight."

Cllr Goodman announced the clerk's salary next year would be £23,450. This accounts for 27 per cent of the council's budget. He said: "The average costs [of salaries] for most parish councils is 64 per cent. We are well down as far as that is concerned."

He also defended the 5.56 per cent council tax increase, which will add £2,000 into the reserves.

Ms Walsh also pointed to income support cuts made by central government that were previously paid directly to parish councils. She said in 2013-14 these losses were being covered by Stratford District Council's council tax support grant—£9,070 for Henley—but warned that if the district council removed this service the year after, then the parish council would have to implement a 15 per cent tax rise in 2014-15 if there was no council tax increase this year.

Report by Matt Wilson, Stratford Herald 24th January 2012

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Henley Independents Chairman comments

Dear Residents of Beaudesert and Henley, image

With all of the votes counted I am pleased to say we have partially succeeded in our goals. 5 of our 12 candidates have been elected to the Joint Parish Council. In Henley, the Independents polled more votes than the opposition. Unfortunately, 7 of our excellent candidates did not get elected but I thank them for their tireless work and commitment to our cause. We obviously don't have a majority on the JPC so we won't be able to carry out our manifesto pledges (reducing costs and bureaucracy, increasing transparency and listening more to what people want) without the support of other members of the JPC.

We do hope that those members of the JPC who have been re-elected will listen to what the voters of Henley and Beaudesert have said and will work with us to create a dynamic and functional JPC that really tries to cater to the needs of all the residents of our town. It is time to put the bickering and in-fighting that dogged the JPC behind us and move forwards as a whole. 

However, we do still firmly believe that the structure of the JPC with its myriad meetings is inefficient, expensive and intimidating. We remain committed to the concept of a streamlined JPC, with fewer meetings and substantially reduced costs - and that these cost savings can be used for the benefit of the town in the future. At least now we have 5 members of the JPC who can influence these decisions from within. 

Thanks once again to everyone who has supported us. 

 Mike Willmott - Chairman Henley Independents

JPC Election Results

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Parish Council Elections - The Issues

On May 3rd, the residents of the parishes of Beaudesert and Henley will be given the opportunity to vote for a new Joint Parish Council (JPC). This is an important opportunity for the residents of Henley-in-Arden to have their voices heard, and it’s been a long time coming - the last time there were contested elections was on 4th May 2000 for Beaudesert and 2nd May 1996 for Henley-in-Arden. On May 3rd, there are 5 seats in Beaudesert and 7 seats in Henley to be contested.

Residents of Henley and Beaudesert who keep up to date with local news will be aware already of the back-biting and undemocratic processes that have tarnished the current JPC. These include the unpleasant slurs over the ‘Purple Shop’ (which eventually led to its proprietor closing and moving elsewhere) and the continued bitter and petty in-fighting with one of its own councillors which eventually led to Stratford District Council branding the JPC as dysfunctional, as well as costing taxpayers over £10,000 in various legal fees and associated costs. There are also numerous examples of supposedly public meetings and decisions being made behind closed doors. 

The JPC has been undemocratic, unsavoury and has sullied the reputation of Henley. For example, at the Stratford District Council Planning meeting on 9th March 2011, when the development of the cattle market was on the agenda, the then Chairman of the JPC, Cllr Les Goodman, told the planning committee that “The Parish Council, in principle, supports the application”. However, the Parish Council had not endorsed the scheme nor expressed any approval of the plans. Furthermore, 83% of the residents, in a properly conducted survey, had declared that they were against the planning application.

There have been other serious problems with the current JPC, which need to be highlighted, so that voters have the full facts. The most important thing the parish councillors do is to control the Precept. This is the element of your council tax, which is given to the JPC to spend on the parish. The Beaudesert and Henley JPC Precept is by far the largest of any mid-sized parish council in the Stratford area. The average is only £31,262. Tanworth in Arden, which has a larger population of 3,017 compared to Henley’s 2,930, has a precept of only £45,500 compared to Henley’s massive £78,000.

During the last few years, the amount of the budget that the JPC has spent on salaries and administration has rocketed to over 42%, which has left less to run the town and fund various good causes. The simple fact is that the JPC spends more money on salaries and administration than any other medium-sized parish council in the Stratford area. To camouflage this, the current JPC has been drawing money from its reserves. The Precept increased last year by 5%, at time when most Parish Councils aimed to keep their Precepts the same or in some cases reduced them. 

Then there is the question of where the Precept is spent. It does appear unfortunately that some groups have been favoured over others. 

Last year, the Youth Club requested a grant of £2,000 to help run the Hub but received NOTHING. Whereas, the Christmas Tree Lights, a group run by the previous chairman of the JPC, was given £3,000 and was the ONLY group applying for more than £300 to receive 100% of its request. 

Maybe it’s because the average age of the current JPC is well over 70 that the youth club had its grant application turned down!

Now, we can moan all we like about the current JPC – there is only one way to make a change and that is to vote in a new, younger and more representative team on May 3rd. So, fellow residents of Henley, you now have all the facts and you can now make a choice. Either vote for the Current JPC or vote for the 12 residents who are standing against them. Many will be voting for the Henley Independents and we urge you to do the same.

Despite the good intentions and commitment of the existing councillors,

if you Vote in the old parish councillors, you will get:-
Wasteful, Bureaucratic, Unrepresentative, Inward Looking, Dysfunctional

if you Vote in the Henley Independents, you will get:-


Streamlined, Prudent, Transparent, Open, Responsive, Younger


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Mike Willmott, Chairman of Henley Independents talks about the differences

imageHenley NEWS: Mr Willmott, we’ve seen Henley Independents candidates out canvassing, there are beermats in the pubs, flyers through our letterboxes, and adverts in Henley Focus – what is it all about?
Mike Willmott: Henley Independents is a collection of independent candidates who have come together as a group to contest the parish council elections on May 3rd. The reason we are working together is that we are much stronger and more visible as a group. We want to make substantial changes to the way the Joint Parish Council (JPC) is run and we can only do this if we can get a majority of us elected (i.e. at least 7 of our 12 candidates). You mentioned canvassing in your question – we have been very active in the last few days, really listening to what residents want. The response has been very encouraging so far.

HN: But can you really have a group of independents? Surely you are either independent or part of a group?
MW: Yes you can. When residents of Henley and Beaudesert meet us they will see that we are individuals with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, all with our own points of view and interests. Trust me, the group we have put together contains a number of strong-minded people and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will act independently if elected!

HN: So why are you standing for election to the Joint Parish Council?
MW: Simply because we feel we can make real changes to Henley, for the benefit of all residents and businesses. We feel that the current JPC has done a lot of good work for Henley in the past but that it has lost its way in recent times. I am not going to disparage the current JPC in public, as I would rather focus on the positives that Henley Independents will bring to the town, - the issues with the current JPC are well known and well documented in any event.

HN: What are the positives that Henley Independents will bring to the town then?
MW: Firstly, we have identified substantial cost savings – if we can achieve a good portion of these savings, then this money can be spent on projects in the town. At a time when county council budgets are being cut we think that we can fill some of this gap by managing the JPC’s money prudently and efficiently. People must remember that the JPC’s income (known as the Precept) comes from the residents of Henley and Beaudesert, via their council tax – it is the duty of the JPC to spend this as wisely as possible and to keep unnecessary expense and waste to a minimum. This chart shows that spending is out of control compared to many other similar sized parish councils in the area. This money has to come from the council tax payers in Henley and Beaudesert. Our JPC currently spends 64% more than Tanworth in Arden, which has a similar size population.


HN: Finding more money to spend on local projects and initiatives would be a good thing for Henley, what else do you have in mind?
MW: We are keen that the JPC is open to all and really listens to all members of the community. So, for example, we would like some of our meetings to be based around a certain section of society (the old, the young, local businesses etc) – this would be a chance for these local groups to discuss their concerns and opportunities with us. We also plan to streamline the number of meetings the JPC has – our goal is to have just one meeting a month. We think that one meeting a month, open to all, should be enough for a town the size of Henley – it’s what happens in many comparable towns after all. The big advantage for residents is that the one, monthly meeting can then be a focus for all discussions of town business – all issues can be aired and discussed at the monthly meeting. We also feel it is important that our discussions are held in public so, apart from in certain circumstances where we are required to discuss issues in private, everything else will be discussed and debated in public.

HN: Do you think that simply reducing the number of meetings is a vote winner though?
MW: What it shows, I hope, is that we are thinking of the residents, and are trying to fit in with them and their busy lives. We know that the to-ins and fro-ins of the JPC is not the most important thing in most people’s lives. What we are trying to do is to create a system that is efficient (so we can spend the JPC’s income more wisely), open to all, and transparent. I think these are important principles and they should be important to residents of Henley.

HN: But Henley is already a great place to live – how would electing Henley Independents make much difference to the town?
MW: Henley IS a great place to live. But we want to do more. I have already mentioned that we will free up some of the JPC’s income to spend on more projects around the town, but we have plenty of ideas that won’t cost any money, and which will benefit the town. For example, we would like to look at ‘guerilla’ gardening projects – planting vegetable plots around the town, for the benefit of townspeople. We will also look at the idea of working reciprocally with groups within the town. As another example, the Scout Hut needs a number of small repair jobs doing over the summer – could we encourage people to help with these jobs and ask the cubs and scouts to do some jobs around the town (maybe a litter pick) in exchange? There will be many other ideas and projects we can consider – if we can create a new JPC to help encourage these ideas and to actually help put these projects into action, then we are on to a winner.

HN: This all sounds encouraging and to be applauded, do you have any final thought for readers of Henley News Online?
MW: We can’t achieve any of this if we aren’t elected on May 3rd. So we need all supporters of Henley Independents to vote for us on that day. Residents of Beaudesert have 5 votes for the JPC and Henley residents have 7 votes. You can simply vote for all of the Henley Independents candidates on your ballot paper – we will be easily identified with a Henley Independents logo.

In the end it’s really very straightforward: if we get enough votes we will be elected. I really hope what I have outlined here will encourage people to vote for Henley Independents on May 3rd, as we feel we can make a real difference to the town.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

HI to field 12 candidates in JPC elections

Campaigning for a better Henley-in-Arden

Mike Willmott, Chair of Henley Independents (HI), announced today that HI will be fielding 12 candidates in the Joint Parish Council elections on May 3rd.

"This is great news for Henley and Beaudesert’ he said, ‘we have submitted our nomination papers to Stratford District Council and I can confirm we have 7 candidates standing for Henley and 5 for Beaudesert. This means that we will be able to contest every seat on the Joint Parish Council.
"We have managed to recruit several younger people – the average age of our candidates is 52 (editor’s note: current JPC = 72), and we have 5 female candidates (editor’s note; current JPC = 3).

Our candidates are committed and enthusiastic people who have some excellent ideas for Henley and Beaudesert. Our aims are to make our town an even better place to live in, to reduce costs and bureaucracy (editor’s note: current JPC's admin = 42% of expenditure) and to engage with everyone who lives and works in the town – from young to old. With our excellent candidates in place, we are well on the way to achieving these aims.”

Highest Spending Council - Henley JPC

The Beaudesert and Henley-in-Arden Joint Parish Council was shown to be the highest spending council in the 2012 Survey of Stratford District Medium Sized Parish Councils (1,000 to 4,000 populations). 

Data source: Stratford District Council

Sunday, 18 March 2012


- Our pledges to YOU -

We will:
Engage with ALL members of the community:
  • We believe the Joint Parish Council must be open to ALL. If we do form the next JPC, we would welcome intervention from any member of the public who wishes to engage with us. We don’t want anyone to feel too intimidated to talk to us, or that we won’t listen to them. Apart from in a few exceptional circumstances, all our meetings and decision-making will be open to the public.
  • We plan to have regular meetings based around specific local groups – for example: youth; the elderly; local businesses. These will provide the opportunity for those groups to discuss their issues, concerns and opportunities with us and other members of our community who attend the meetings.
Run the Joint Parish Council as efficiently as we can:
  • We have identified a number of costs savings which we will endeavour to implement. The savings can then be reallocated to other important community projects.
  • We work like to have just one Parish Council meeting per month and reduce the various sub-committee meetings, which take up a huge amount of time for little benefit. We feel that one efficient monthly meeting is all that a town the size of Henley requires (and is consistent with what happens in similar-sized towns). This means all JPC decisions will be taken at the single monthly meeting and, as we said above, you would be most welcome to attend.
Use the JPC funds wisely and fairly, across the whole community:
  • The JPC spends its precept (which is the parish part of YOUR council tax) on the local community. This includes some fixed costs and some discretionary grants. We want everyone to be aware of the grant process and to invite more projects to apply for grants.
  • We also want the community to advise the JPC which projects they think the JPC should support with a grant.
Work hard to make Henley an even better place to live:
  • ‘Guerilla’ gardening projects – to grow fruit and vegetables in un-used local spaces.
  • Consider making Henley a Fairtrade Town.
  • Encourage and promote community volunteer projects – such a litter picks, sign cleaning, etc
  • Investigate ‘time-banking’ so that projects and societies can trade time to help with one another’s projects.
  • Work WITH the community to make sensible decisions regarding important local issues (such as The Hub, Croft Car Park and the Railway Station buildings)
So, if you like what you hear and feel we could make a difference,
please vote 
Henley Independents on May 3rd

Your Vote Counts!

Why does the JPC clerk have to work around 37 hours per week?

Stratford Midweek Herald - Tuesday 20th March 2012

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A great idea from a public spirited resident

Although I do not wish to be part of the parish council, I am happy to donate my time to support the council in a secretarial capacity. I feel personally rather than paying an outrageous amount for a parish clerk, the parish council could better use this money by asking for a group of volunteers to administer this role at no cost. 

This would help start to repair a lot of damage that has been done by the parish council, by showing that there is a solution and the residents do care. Anyway that's just my opinion, I think it's better to offer to help than to sit back and do nothing. 

There must be other like minded people living in Henley who may not want to take on the responsibility of becoming a parish councillor but would be happy to support in other ways, using their skills and experience to help make Henley a more community focussed beautiful place to live. 

Let us hope you get some others to step forward with suggestions. It's is nice to know people care about our community.

A Resident - Name and address withheld

Friday, 24 February 2012

WALC admits Election Leaflet was Inaccurate

JPC failed to make any checks

The Joint Parish Council disclosed at the Council meeting on Monday 20th February that the anonymous flyer about becoming a parish councillor, which was circulated with the last JPC Magazine, was provided by the Warwickshire Association of Local Councils (WALC).

Many residents had complained that it contained very obvious inaccuracies. The "Do I qualify to stand for election?" panel failed to include the word "AND" and word "OR" THREE times, turning 4 alternatives into one single requirement with 5 criteria. Had this been correct, it would have disqualified all the retired electors and anyone working more than 3 miles outside the parish from becoming a councillor. It would also have meant that 10 out of 12 of the present councillors would not qualify to stand. The chairman, Cllr Roger Hubbocks, with the powerful support of Cllr Les Goodman, blocked any discussion and suggested the matter could be taken up with WALC. They agreed that the leaflet had been distributed without any checks being made on its accuracy by the JPC.

After the meeting, Henley NEWS emailed WALC saying that their leaflet contained inaccuracies. WALC responded by agreeing and revised the leaflet. Will the JPC now distribute the correct version?

Seeking Advice and Clarification
If you have any questions, you should ask the Stratford District Council Democratic Support Services on 01789 260208 or email:

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Advert That Never Was

Many readers will have seen the 1956 movie, "The Man Who Never Was" which was about the true story of a British attempt to trick the enemy into weakening Sicily's defenses before the 1943 attack, using a dead man with faked papers. 

Operation 'Mincemeat' involved the acquisition and dressing up of a human cadaver as a "Major William Martin, R.M." and putting it into the sea near Huelva, Spain. Attached to the corpse was a brief-case containing fake letters falsely stating that the Allied attack would be against Sardinia and Greece rather than Sicily, the actual point of invasion.

When the body was found, the Spanish Intelligence Service passed copies of the papers to the German Intelligence Service which passed them on to their High Command. The ruse was so successful that the Germans still believed that Sardinia and Greece were the intended objectives, weeks after the landings in Sicily had begun.

At the JPC Council meeting on 6th, February Cllr Nicholas Haycock produced a picture of a simulated advert (reproduced above); "The Advert That Never Was". Both Cllr Haycock and Cllr Les Goodman expressed their strong condemnation for the Henley Independents and the spoof advert. 

Clearly, the English still have the ingenuity to mislead political adversaries.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

JPC's leaflet error on Councillor qualifications

The JPC has now had to disclose that it published the anonymous flyer about becoming a parish councillor, which was circulated with the last JPC Magazine. Many residents had complained that it was inaccurate and believed that it might have contravened the Electoral Commission's regulations.

Several residents have queried the motive behind the flyer. Was it another example of JPC incompetence or was it a deliberate attempt by the Ruling Group to limit competition at the forthcoming Parish Council election? If it was the latter, this would be a most serious attempt at gerrymandering, which is defined as trying to get extra votes unfairly.

Although this leaflet appeared to have been designed for use by many parish councils with an simulated overprint in blue of the Henley JPC address, we now know that it was printed for the JPC. A cheque for £417.73 was approved by a majority vote, with 2 councillors voting against, at the last JPC Council meeting on Monday 20th Feb. Prior to this, the parish clerk had declined to disclose even to a parish councillor, the publisher of this flyer. Why was the Parish Clerk so reluctant to provide this information?

The "Do I qualify to stand for election?" criteria failed to include the word "AND" ONCE and word "OR" THREE times, turning 4 alternatives into 5 requirements. This would disenfranchise all retired electors and anyone working more than 3 miles outside the parish. It would also mean that 10 out of 12 of the present parish councillors would NOT qualify to stand for election.

Obviously, the JPC does not have the power to overrule Section 2 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 and all the local government electors on the Electoral Register can stand for election without meeting any other qualification.

The JPC election flyer above

The Correct Qualification and Disqualification Requirements

Persons qualify if they are aged over 18 and are a British, Commonwealth or EU Citizen and are also one or more of the following:

  2. OR occupied land or buildings in Henley or Beaudesert during the whole of preceding 12 months.
  3. OR principal place of work has been in Henley Beaudesert during the whole of the preceding 12 months.
  4. OR resided in one of the parishes or within 4.8 kms of the boundary of either parish during the whole of the preceding 12 months.

The panel, "Am I excluded from standing?" is also very confusing and again inaccurate.

If you have any questions, you should only ask the Stratford District Council Democratic Support Services on 01789 260208 or email:

Residents are now expecting Cllr Roger Hubbocks, chairman of the JPC, to explain whether his group were gerrymandering, or was it just another blunder by this dysfunctional council. The councillors are now considering reissuing the leaflet.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Demand for enquiry into JPC Grants

Residents are considering demanding a public enquiry at the annual parish meetings into the JPC grants for the fiscal year 2012/3. 

There was outrage when it was announced that the Hub Youth Club would receive nothing and why the Christmas Lights would receive their full request when all other applicants had had their requests scaled down. 

The Christmas Lights Working Party, organised by Cllr Les Goodman, receives in addition to the JPC grant, considerable donations from the residents and businesses. Residents cannot remember the accounts being circulated so that they could see the reason why the Christmas Lights are a special case and that this application should not be scaled down like the others.

The annual parish meetings take place on 10th April for Henley and 17th April for Beaudesert, shortly before the parish council election on 3rd May.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Parish Clerk's Political Comments are wrong

In the January 19th edition of the Stratford Herald, the JPC clerk, writing in a personal capacity, said "unlike district and county councils, parish councils are not held in a political format". The editor of the Stratford Herald added a post script; "Ms Walsh's assertion that parish council elections are not held in a political format is false".

In the same letter, the parish clerk endorses a group of the existing councillors "the current parish council who in my opinion do an excellent job working under tremendous constraints from a small group who claim to represent the town when in actual fact they form a very small but vocal minority".

At the JPC meeting on Monday 16th January, the leader of the Henley Independents, Mike Willmott, reminded the JPC that Government officers such as parish clerks are not allowed to take part in political activities or promote any political party or group unless they first resign from office which in this case has not happened. 

Mr Willmott also asked that the JPC observes the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity and he pointed out that there were very specific rules during periods leading up to elections. Recent editions of the JPC Newsletter had been very biased and party political.

During the Council meeting, a debate took place about correspondence between the Joint Parish Council and the Henley War Memorial Trust, which administers the village hall and the playing fields. In a confused speech, Cllr George Matheou, right, said that when he joined the Henley War Memorial Trust several years ago, he told the then chairman of the Trust that he represented the parish council. Cllr Matheou maintained that this declaration meant that the whole parish council were trustees. Cllr Leech responded that whilst he could “represent” the parish council it did not make the whole parish council trustees. Cllr Leech said the Charity Commission rules were very precise and required that all trustees had to be “people”, not organisations.

Cllr Leech went on to say that it was unfortunate that the parish clerk had advised Councillors at their first meeting in December that the Council were trustees “in equal status” to the other trustees. Cllr Matheou had then used this information to issue a press release which had been widely reported, including in the Stratford Herald, and had criticised the way in which the trust had been run. Peter Crathorne, Chairman of the Henley War Memorial Trust previously had described Cllr Matheou’s press release as “a travesty of the truth”. After a lengthy debate without reaching any conclusions, Councillors decided to move on.

At the end of the meeting, the public and the press were excluded so that Councillors could discuss an unspecified complaint by the parish clerk against an un-named councillor. No information on this secret discussion has been made available to the media or Cllr Leech.

Comments from a Knowledgeable Reader
As the Clerk to Henley and Beaudesert Joint Parish Council, it is Ms Walsh's duty to act as the Proper Officer during elections and faciltate the democratic returning of elected members to the council.  This must be an impartial function.  

As an informed reader, I think Ms Walsh ought to know her facts. What she states is utterly wrong.

The beauty of the election system in this country is that pretty much anyone over the age of eighteen can stand for election, with or without the backing of a political party. This includes to all three tiers of Local Government.  

As it appears she does not understand her role as clerk and wishes to indulge in political views in the parish in which she works, this reader thinks she ought to know that she too could stand for election, subject to her resigning from her post and leaving a one year gap.

Look at what happens on a daily basis in countries that do not acknowledge the importance of democracy! 
An Experienced Local Government Officer