Letter from: Coun Paul Gilson, Leigh Town Council.
SIR, in recent months many newspaper articles and media posts have been written about Leigh-on-Sea Town Council (LTC) and its current Conservative majority.
Much of such is untrue and some clearly lies, seemingly created by a cabal of unelected political experts! All members of the current LTC were elected at the ballot box, either by election contest or after being unopposed because there were no other candidates willing to stand.
LTC at its inception was created to be non-political; however this started to change some fifteen (15) years ago. I have been told this by many previous councillors who have contacted me since this campaign of hate started.
Many have gone into great detail about what went on, long before I joined and became a councillor.
About three years ago Andy Wilkins and I declared we were Conservatives, because we were sick of hearing other councillors saying they were ‘independent’ or ‘non-aligned’ when clearly, they were anything but.
This situation of at least one LTC councillor claiming to be non-aligned still continues today. Previously, Andy and I felt it was only right to be open and honest with the electorate and to openly declare who we were and what we stood for. I was duly elected as a Conservative in May last year.
Before I joined the council, I took advice from experienced friends such as Mike King (Lib-dem), David Norman (Lab) and the late Chris Bailey (Lib-dem), all of whom I have worked with in the Endeavour Trust.
I both valued and trusted their views and I would go as far as to say, Mike was a good mentor to me. I consulted them all many times before eventually putting myself forward as a LTC councillor. Their views of me doing so were somewhat different. Chris Baily was dead against me wasting my time joining in his words “a toxic town council”. How right he was, little did I know what I was signing up to.
On my first attempt at joining LTC I attended a co-option selection with more than ten other candidates. Everyone gave a short presentation about themselves and why they wanted to be a councillor. One candidate stood out by a huge margin and some others were clearly very good. I knew then that I was not going to get co-opted onto the council.
However; to my amazement none of the clearly very capable people were selected. The person selected was in my view rather less than inspiring, which made no logical sense to me.
A few weeks later, I bumped into a sitting councillor who had sat on that very selection panel. He asked me how I felt about not getting elected and I explained my disappointment, but also my surprise in who was not selected. “Oh, we had made our selection before the meeting” he told me. This made me more determined than ever, to stand for election at the next opportunity and I was later duly elected to LTC at the ballot box.
In my time as a LTC councillor, I have witnessed many co-options, where a position as a councillor became vacant and instead of calling a by-election, an in-house panel of other councillors selected their new like-minded councillor. In my opinion many co-options were not open selections, with ballot papers being counted out of sight etc. with many surprising results. In many such instances of co-option, new councillors often did not stay long.
Letter from: Coun Alan Hart, Leigh Town Council (LTC).
SIR, two ‘headlines’ over letters in the Leigh News of 23rd January struck an interesting confluence of views.
One stated ‘The Old Guard Crying Foul at Leigh Town Council’ and the other declared ‘Meeting Turned into an Absolute Farce’.
The former implies some kind of ‘junta’ or ‘dictatorship’ (not my words) having had control of the Council, does that relate to the point at which two Councillors, effectively elected as non-aligned, declared themselves political mid-term?
Perhaps it refers to the independent members who either retired or may have been defeated with the influx of politics to the Council, leaving a minority of Councillors obliged to act as an ‘opposition group’?
The old political guard is apparently behind the disruption of meetings, when scheduled meetings actually occur presumably, I question whether the majority Tory group has any idea of the disruption and destruction it causes?
For the record, non-aligned Councillors have resisted knowing details of the Town Clerk suspension in the hope of being involved in judiciary panels to decide the matter, apparently a forlorn hope. The issue is more a case of when will this be settled, after nearly six months of prevarication ?
The meeting referred to in the second letter is that of January 16 when a ‘meeting in public’ became off the record as far as residents were concerned with the over-reaction to vocal members of the audience.
Police were called, although the ‘disruptive’ audience had left the building by then and the meeting had scurried into private session.
If this is democracy I don’t recognise it as such! I can only echo the closing paragraph of the residents letter by hoping that a line can be drawn, outstanding issues settled and that all Councillors can work together for the benefit of Leigh on Sea, clearly LTC needs politics like it needs a hole in the head.
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