Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Why Did They Resign?

I saw Harriet Snookes of the Bucks Herald talking to Fiona, the Parish Clark, and Mrs. Green, a Wendover Resident in dispute with the parish over a square meter. Harriet has a really hard job there, to sort out the facts about the dispute. But that is only the Casus Beli. I hope she does not loose the plot there. The real question is not who is right (in this case everybody is right and everybody is wrong) but why was this not settled in the usual amicable manner that characterised the Wendover Parish Council until now, and what was the straw that broke the patience of the councillors who voted with their feet.

I obtained copies of some of the resignations letters under the Freedom of Information Act. There seems to be a similar theme running through them. I read in them the pain of having been forced to divorce from a long standing commitment to serving Wendover with love.

When Norman Western read out his letter of resignation, what impressed me the most was not his words - powerful as they were - but his voice. It conveyed deep anger and hurt. He said that he had hoped that he would be able to contribute something of value to benefit the community of Wendover as a whole. That, he wrote, has proved a vain hope. He blamed the corrosive environment: ‘Council meetings have become totally emasculated, due to the continuous, “nit picking” as part of the ongoing vendetta against the Parish Clerk.” This, he said, caused him considerable emotional distress.

Another who displayed exasperation is Angus McKechnie. He stormed out of the meeting when he realized that the ‘appalling and dreadful behaviour’ of Councillors Gregory and Ballantine was to continue to sandbag the proceedings. Others have pointed out these two as the ones who have put the sticks in the wheels of the Parish Council. Eileen Mckechnie goes further to mention Councillor Clayton.

Now I would not hasten to tarnish Councillors Gregory and Ballantine with the same brush. When I started to listen in to the Parish Council meetings, I knew no one and did not know their political affiliation. Up to the unfortunate eruption of the Mrs. Green Issue the council was ticking along very nicely and I formulated my opinion of the councillors based on what they said, how they said it and what was reported that they did. Some impressed me very much.

I tended to agree with most of what Councillor Gregory proposed and my impression was of an experienced sharp councillor. When I met her and her sister, Mrs. Green on several occasions they were always warm towards me and I could imagine them coming over for afternoon tea and scones in my wife’s wonderful garden (Plug: http://www.acercorner.com/). So what went wrong? Impatience, temper, involvement of lawyers, and single mindedness. I can see how constant pressure and bad advice have slowly wrong-footed this otherwise good councillor. Originally the general mood of the council was that this issue should be resolved fast and if possible without bad blood. But as it dragged on and more heated words were said, Mrs Gregory found her support was dwindling. That made her actions more desperate. And this is where the rest of the council is to blame. They should have resolved it. I do not know what went on outside the Parish Meetings. But I think there was an attempt to clear the water. That seemed to have done the trick for a meeting or two. I could see the pressure she felt and that she truly believed she was right – a hand should have been extended to pull her out (I know, it is easier said than done). I felt for her when I realized her only ally left was Councillor Ballantine.

Councillor Ballantine? She might have been an excellent councillor in the past. But almost from the word Go, I marked her in my mind as a Liability.

Alas, the vote of no-confidence the resignation letters convey does not compel their subjects. I hope they read the writing on the wall. For the best of Wendover, I plea to all the rest of the councillors that have not resign yet, to do so to help save face and open the way to the resolution of this affair.

Writing this saddens me. I would prefer to end with a positive note. Allow me to quote from Dr. Sheila King who was the first casualty of this saga:

“I would like to acknowledge the enormous support and sound advice I have received as Chair of the Council from two Councillors in particular – namely Ted Wilkinson and Eileen McKechnie. I would also like to acknowledge the excellent work of some members of the Council – most notable Stephen Worth and Joel Stevens – who have quietly and productively gone about what I believe to be the true business of Councillors ie significantly improving the environs of Wendover for all.”

May we always see the full half.

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