Mayor branded “dictatorial” over secret talks on youth spending

Cllr Ben Walker

A Bradley Stoke Town Councillor has branded the town’s Mayor “dictatorial” after he failed to invite other Councillors to a meeting with a senior official at South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).

Mayor Ben Walker met alone with SGC’s Director of Children and Young People to find out why Bradley Stoke receives significantly less from SGC than other towns in the district for the provision of youth services.

[Ed: We have since been told that the Mayor met with SGC officers rather than the Director; see comment below.]

Liberal Democrat Cllr Jon Williams says he found out about the meeting by chance and feels he should have been invited to attend, as he claims it was he who first questioned why Bradley Stoke gets such a “raw deal” from SGC.

“I think it’s ridiculous that our Mayor is taking a dictatorial approach so early in his year of office. By excluding other elected councillors from an important meeting with the Director of Children and Young People to discuss the level of funding for youth work in the town without a good reason, he obviously thinks he’s special.”

“As a result of his undemocratic attitude I have had to ask for an identical meeting with the Director immediately after his. This is a waste of the Director’s time but I have no option if I want to understand the funding issues.”

According to Cllr Williams, figures supplied by SGC show that they spend £93k in Filton, £84k in Patchway and £73k in Stoke Gifford – compared to just £33k in Bradley Stoke (which has the largest youth population in the area).

Cllr Williams told The Journal he believes Conservative-run SGC is resisting any redistribution of youth funding prior to the May 2011 elections, to avoid being accused of cutting youth services in other towns.

Council to meet behind closed doors to discuss youth funding

Told of Cllr Williams’s comments, Cllr Walker provided the following statement:

“The meeting was set up at my own request so I could understand a little more of the history behind SGC’s funding of youth provision in the town. It was not an official Council meeting and no decisions were made.”

“I now have some ideas that I’d like to share with Full Council and these will be revealed on Wednesday (tonight, 6th October). The press and public have been excluded as some of the information is potentially sensitive but will be released once discussed by Full Council.”

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  1. Sad to see that BSTC are choosing to meet behind closed doors again. I thought they had put such dubious practices behind them. Doesn’t exactly seem compatible with the Big Society ethos recently espoused by the Mayor does it?

  2. Sounds as if Cllr Williams has a point. Why shouldn’t other councillors have had the opportunity to hear 1st hand why Bradley Stoke gets such a raw deal. I would have thought any meeting with a Director would have been official or they wouldn’t have turned up!

  3. I’m very concerned that Ben Walker is under the impression that a meeting with South Gloucestershire Council officers, the Executive member for Children and Young People plus the Town Clerk and Finance Officer is not an “official” meeting. Could he explain what his definition of an official meeting is so that we are all clear.

    He also says that no decisions were made. Well that’s good news as he had no mandate from the Council to meet in the first place and therefore he had no authority to make a decision even if he’d wanted to.

    Please can we start to see democracy creep back into the dealings of our town council.

  4. Sometimes, Jon, it’s actually more productive and quicker just to have an off-the-record chat with someone to understand a problem. Not every discussion between BTSC and SGC has to be a formal, minuted meeting with all councillors present! I’m sure that Mayor Walker is perfectly capable of relaying the salient points of his discussion with you and the town’s other councillors.
    I know the council has to be democratic, but one can take it to extremes and end up making the machine of local government run like treacle.

  5. Uh Oh toys out of pram alert!

    Looks like Cllr Williams is feeling left out because noone invited him to a meeting. Perhaps he should show more respect for his colleagues when he is invited rather than insulting them and storming out if he doesn’t get his way!

  6. Bert, couldn’t agree more. But in this case he was accompanied by officers of BSTC in works time, so it had to be official. His decision to exclude other interested councillors (and maybe I was the only one) smacks of “I’m the mayor, I’ll do what I want” and that’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

    Fred, in fact I had a meeting with the Director and Cllr Walker spoke to the Senior Youth Manager. When you feel strongly about something it’s frustrating to be sidelined and find out that decisions are being made behind your back and sometimes even before the meeting starts. But I’m over that now.

  7. Wow, this certainley is handbags at thirty paces.

    Perhaps if the economy wasn’t in meltdown and this council had not inherited this low funding from the previous Liberal administration we would not have such a problem.

    During the war my friends and I were happy to play shove ha’penny in the Anderson Shelter !!

  8. I don’t believe that highlighting unacceptable behaviour by someone in a position of authority is “handbags at 30 paces”.

    Darious, which “Liberal administration” are you refering to? The last administration 2003-2007 was a shared administration. The last time the Lib Dems were in control of South Glos (1999-2003) Bradley Stoke got a swimming pool, the Jubilee Green and commitment for the secondary school. It’s only now, under a Conservative administration our funding is going down. The records speak for themselves.

  9. Fred says:
    “Perhaps he (Jon Williams) should show more respect for his colleagues when he is invited rather than insulting them and storming out if he doesn’t get his way!”

    Seems that this applies to other councillors as well – one in particular who recently, rather abruptly, left a meeting when he didn’t get his way!

    So one all!

    Oh the joys of politics – good to see the coalition is working well at a local level.

  10. Cllr- or is it treat others as you would like to be treated?

    My goodness, I would expect something better than this playground behaviour from those elected to represent us.

  11. The Editor received the following news from Cllr Jones on Thursday 7th Oct:

    “Following last night’s meeting it has come to my attention that there is an inaccuracy in your article.”

    “Council learnt last night that the Mayor did not in fact meet with the Director of CYP as she was unexpectedly called away to meet in private with Jon Williams.”

    This comes as something of a surprise to the Editor as I exchanged emails with the Mayor after the SGC meeting had taken place and he failed to tell me that he hadn’t in fact meet the Director as had been planned.

    The Mayor has assured me that all notes, letters and reports presented to Wednesday night’s meeting of BSTC will be published, along with the draft minutes of that meeting.

    Once that information is available, we will re-visit the topic and correct any part of the original article that is shown to be inaccurate.

    In the meantime, comments on this story are closed.

Comments are closed.