Have your say at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting

Bradley Stoke Town Council's 2011/2012 Annual Report.

Residents of Bradley Stoke are invited to have their say at the Annual Town Meeting this Wednesday evening (9th May) at the Jubilee Centre, Savages Wood Road (7:30pm start).

The meeting will receive summary reports from the Chair of Council (Cllr Ben Walker), the Chair of the Finance Committee (Cllr Roger Avenin), the Chair of the Planning & Environment Committee (Cllr John Ashe) and the Chair of the Leisure , Youth & Amenities Committee (Cllr Keir Gravil).

Members of the public will then have the opportunity to put questions to Councillors in an open session.

The Chairs’ full reports are contained in the Annual Report for 2011/2012, which has already been delivered to all households in the town at a cost of several thousand pounds. The report has also been available for download from the Council’s website since 19th April.

Written by the Councillors themselves, the report inevitably presents a rather biased view of the Council’s achievements over the past year, with the “huge savings” made by building a new office for the Council at a cost of £400k featuring prominently in both the Mayor’s and Finance Committee Chair’s reports.

Mayor Ben Walker reports that he is pleased with his Council’s new model for youth provision in Bradley Stoke, the introduction of which included closing the Brook Way Youth Club – a move which led to the loss of 13 youth worker jobs. South Gloucestershire Council has since decided to follow the path forged by Bradley Stoke Town Council by discontinuing support for all 13 youth centres that it currently runs with effect from April 2013, a move which Cllr Walker interprets as a “plaudit we [the Town Councillors] are very proud of”.

Also documented in the report is the attendance record of Town Councillors at meetings during the past financial year. Top marks again go to the enthusiastic Cllr Ben Walker, who has attended an astonishing 29 Council and Committee meetings, making him the only representative with a 100% record.

The enthusiasm of the other 14 Councillors (all Conservative) seems to have waned over the year after the euphoria following their election victory last May. Twelve months ago, the first Full Council meeting of the new administration saw 14 Councillors in attendance but by March 2012 this had dwindled to just six.

One newly-elected Councillor, Barry Mitchell (representing the Meadowbank ward), has attended just two meetings (from the 13 at which he was expected) over his first year in office. Other infrequent attenders have included Cllr Keir Gravil (11 from 24) and Cllr Ed Rose (12 from 29).

The current Vice-Chair of Council, Cllr Charlotte Walker (younger sister of the Mayor), has only attended one meeting of Full Council since September 2011.

According to a press release put out by the Council ahead of last year’s AGM, 24-year-old Ms Walker is “set to become the youngest Mayor in the town’s history” next week. A week later, on 23rd May, her elder brother is expected to be elected Chair of South Gloucestershire Council, having served as Vice-Chair for the past twelve months.

The Editor comments: Something the Annual Report doesn’t tell you

Despite repeated claims that it operates in a transparent manner, Bradley Stoke Town Council has shown itself to be increasingly secretive over the past year. A nadir of transparency came at the September 2011 Full Council meeting, when a batch of 13 decisions committing the Council to a total expenditure of at least £175,000 were waved through in a matter of seconds.

Members of the press and public present at the meeting had no idea what had been approved as the motion related to “recommendations” agreed at a so-called (informal) “Strategic Planning Meeting” held in private six days earlier. A report detailing the “recommendations” was only placed into the public domain when the draft minutes of the Full Council meeting were published a few days later.

The Editor of this newspaper brought the matter to the attention of South Gloucestershire Council’s Monitoring Officer, who instigated an investigation by a senior member of his legal team.

The investigation concluded that Bradley Stoke Town Council had acted improperly, as reports to be presented to Council meetings should be made available, along with the agenda, at least three clear days in advance of the meeting.

As a result of the investigation, the Town Council agreed to amend its procedures to ensure that “reports that accompany agendas are made available to members of the public at the Town Council offices at the same time the agenda is published”.

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  1. Someone going by the name of ‘Rich’ just submitted a comment on this story. As part of the moderation process, the Editor would like to discuss some of the points raised in the comment prior to publication. An email sent to the address provided bounced, so would ‘Rich’ get in touch directly please?

  2. Editor,

    If you believe that our annual reports are biased then I also believe that your report is an extremely jaundiced account of our first year. I know you are a journalist and it is in your interests to promote controversy but you have detracted from the hard work put in by a dedicated band of individuals who do this as a contribution to the community entirely without pay.

    As regards to your attendance figures most of our councillors have busy full time jobs to go to and need to fit in council duties around these. You apparently have only one job – to criticise almost everything we do.

    I will however be surprised if you publish this.

  3. Roger,

    The Council spends thousands of pounds writing, designing, printing and delivering newsletters and reports to the populace.

    One of the roles of a journalist is to strike a balance in the way things are reported and focus on aspects that the official account misrepresents, underplays or overlooks.

    Most people would agree that such independent reporting is an essential part of any free democracy.

    I really think you need to man up if you can’t take the occasional piece of criticism from an outsider.

    The Editor

  4. Sorry Cllr Roger Avenin, with the editor 100% on this one. The Council is spending public money so good public governance is the only option.

    I don’t think from what I read the editor “detracted from the hard work put in by a dedicated band of individuals who do this as a contribution to the community entirely without pay.”

    May be it just highlights some of you are more hard working than others or that the way things are done, at times seems to someone outside, odd.

    Wouid I stand? no, because I have a full time job that takes me away, so I know I could not give it 100%. May be people should ask themselves that before they stand for public office.

  5. Stephen,

    I am happy to accept criticism where warranted. I have broad shoulders. However instead of the negativity shown in your report maybe a more even handed approach would be preferable.

    For example there must have been some decisions we have taken that even you agree with so why not sometimes praise the Council for these ? After all this would be novel and a first for you and would demonstrate to your readers that your ‘rag’ is indeed impartial.

  6. Roger,

    Just wondering if – when the criticism here inevitably becomes hostile towards you – whether you are going to do the same as last time and hide?

    I have to say the ‘rag’ comment above was utterly unwarranted as well. SH does plenty to sell Bradley Stoke in a positive way. But when councils are waving through £175k of spending and holding informal meetings I think the BSJ has every right to be negative.

    Newspapers, by the way, do not have to be impartial. I think you might be confusing them for another media organisation ….

  7. ‘Toxteth’

    You accuse me of hiding !!!! I am using my real name, and my photo and address etc are published in Council leaflets. It is not me that is hiding behind a pathetic pseudonym.

    I do however agree with you that the media does not have to be impartial. So does that mean the the Bradley Stoke Journal supports another outlook ?
    In the words of the Editor of Private Eye ‘I think we should be told’.

  8. I think you ought to withdraw the accusation that I’m “pathetic”. Hardly fitting of an elected official to be throwing such language around.

    In terms of using a pseudonym – I value my privacy. As do many others on this website. As such, I have no compulsion to publish my name or address on the internet. You, on the other hand, are an elected official who is supposed to serve the public.

    Out of interest – were you involved with this informal meeting that SH has reported on? In the words of Private Eye, I think we should be told.

  9. I just wonder if the councillor adopts the same derogatory and hostile stance when canvassing for votes on the doorstep?

    But rather than answer that, can you please explain why you, as chair of the Finance Committee feel it is acceptable to make decisions in secret and what exactly was this £175k spent on?

  10. This whole issue of a “secret meeting” is frankly ridiculous . At that time we were facing a large number if issues and were conscious of the fact that meetings were dragging on a bit. This was merely an additional informal meeting to advance some decisions and decide our strategy = all the issues discussed were taken to formal meetings later. If Stephen could’nt keep up well sorry. This was now so long ago I can’t even remember everything we discussed however one topic was the Brook Way refurbishment and maintenence for the tennis courts there.
    I am sorry to dissapoint you all but there were no issues of National Security, no Swiss Bank Accounts, no planned ‘jollies’ to the South of France. this was all solely about routine expenditure.

    Regarding my derogatory and hostile stance when canvassing well yes I tell it as it is whether you want to hear it or not. If you and your other contibutors have something to say I suggest you get down to the meeting tonight but you will have to reveal your real names if you want to speak. But of course you wont as this requires a degree of moral courage.

  11. “This was all solely about routine expenditure.”

    Am I right in saying the meeting was not properly minuted, not open to the public and not open to any kind of transparency or scrutiny?

    You can see where we’re having trouble, can’t you?

    Surely you can’t use the excuse that meetings were “dragging on a bit”? If they are – then the public could only have themselves to blame if they did not attend an open meeting. If you held it behind closed doors, then we were denied that chance.

    And if your memory was poor about what was discussed – then why not take minutes? Surely that’s the whole idea??

  12. Roger, every time you post on this site you end up making yourself and the council by association look rather foolish.

    SGC’s investigation found you had acted improperly yet you try to brush it off.

    So when you accuse voters and residents of this town of having a lack of moral courage is this your personal view or one endorsed by your party?

  13. Saw the press release of the new Chair “I feel pathetic”. Is it hereditary succession? Usually Vice Chair became Chair next year, but here the person in question hasn’t done anything at all. Was almost abscolding. Are these Councillors mad? It is dictatorship of a few, we can’t call it democracy. They are too intolerant of even a slight tune of criticisms. Horrible.

  14. Feel pathetic about the BSTC press release last year. Usually, Vice Chair becomes Chair the following year. It is a custom not a law. But here, the person in question hasn’t turned up for most meetings or activities of the Town Council, at all. Why should such a person desires to become Chair? Is it hereditary succession or a dictatorship of a few? This is horrible.

  15. So Charlotte Walker vowed to “hit the ground running”. Shame it was in the opposite direction! A family affair? The whole thing is a joke, albeit not a very funny one.

  16. Blimey, didn’t realise I was living under a hereditary dictatorship! We need new road signs: “Welcome to Bradley Stoke, twinned with North Korea.”

  17. So, I see Roger has done his usual moan and run routine. Perhaps you’d like to answer my points above or has your moral courage deserted you?

  18. Yes, Red Ed, It is going that way. Short sighted selfish mandarins of the Town Council have nothing else to do than to fiddle their Messiah. This Messiah doesn’t trust anyone. So he resolute to plant his sister Lola. The Lola felt she couldn’t do anything less than a Mayor, so she hasn’t turned up at all last year. One of absconding souls. If no Tory has guts to bell the cat, the arrogant puppet princess makes it all comical. When few fancy serving their selfish appetite, what else we can expect. These thoughtless mortals think they are doing a great job, what a blunder? They don’t know how the cunning hoodwink is minting profit. Mayor is a Dummy. Until these cronies go, we never ever vote for Tories.

  19. Dear Toxic

    If you had attended the Town Assembly this Wednesday you could have asked any question you liked. This is what the Town Assembly is for ie to hold the Councillors to account in an open and above board manner. Other residents attended and asked questions and appeared satisfied at the end.
    If you are still cowering behind your computer and don’t get any answers then that is entirely your fault.

    As for Matts’ contribution I hardly understand a word of it. Did he ever go to school do you think ?

  20. Roger, if you couldn’t understand a word of what we said, then you are the one to attend the school, Or else test your brains. That will save us a bit. Don’t incarnate as Daddy Pig of the egotistical marionette Lola? Absolute disgrace!

  21. Just an observation, but is this really the “Cllr Roger Avenin”? When I read his comments I wonder….

    Reason for this is that it appears that’s he massively confrontational (I don’t care per se as I don’t get to vote for him) but Jeez! Could do with a crash course in public relations that’s for sure, couldn’t he?!?

  22. Roger the dodger (since we appear to have stooped to the rather childish level of name calling … Amazing from a supposed pillar of society…)

    I would have loved to attended but I was working.

    Would you now answer my points in a sensible, grown up manner befitting of someone of office?

    Or are you just going to carry on with this amazing, question-dodging and hugely immature attempt to deflect attention from my questions?

    Your choice.

  23. Roger, we have the right to convey our views. This is democracy, not a pocket borough of North Korea. We don’t desire to upset you personally. But observing news about the new BStoke Mayor, we want to raise our strong discontent. Sorry. This disgruntlement is shared by most common folks in the town. We have nothing against anyone. But anointing an indifferent and inactive puppet with Mayoralty sends the wrong message. It is insult to common folks like us and an affront to the Town. It is total rudeness.

    Bradley Stoke is not anyone’s family fiefdom? If “Lola” (borrowing Matts term) has been active earlier during her time as the Vice Chair of Bradley Stoke, we would have never raised this concern. Her attendance in the meetings during the last one year is just 9 out of 29. Think mate, what was her contribution to Bradley Stoke? Has she engaged herself with any community programmes? Has she been able to propose any matter about the Town in any meetings? We haven’t seen her at all. Why should we accept such a big-headed (excuse my French) as our first citizen? What does she got in her sleeves to offer Bradley Stoke now? We wonder, what is the logic of coronating such a person to lead the Town Council? It is totally ludicrous.

    We are not hot and bothered about your politics. We can accept anybody else (any Bradley Stoke residents) in such roles. Even if her brother wants to hold on to it, we won’t babble. But mind it, we will fight day in and day out against selfish interests.

    We knew that Town Council is a voluntary work, but we yearn for sincere and committed souls there. Otherwise wind up the Town Council. We could save our precepts.

  24. My Gosh! Is that girl going to be the Mayor of Bradley Stoke? I can’t believe it. When I tried to have a word with her last year, her snubbing, rude behaviour was totally disgusting. I felt she consider residents like us as her minions or some inferior creatures like that. This is an absolute disgrace.

  25. This is car crash politics at its best….. loving it
    and as for nepotism… it runs in the family!

    BS (appropriate initials!) Town Council will self destruct in 10…9….

  26. Toxteth

    You seem to have great difficulty in your understanding of the word ‘informal’. as in ‘informal meeting’ For your ease the dictionary definition of informal means unceremonious, casual, natural etc etc. I frequently run into other councillors in all sorts of locations such as corridors, shops, pubs, even toilets etc where a topic of interest may be discussed but sadly no members of the public are invited here and no minutes taken. In any event as I have said before all topics and new ideas discussed informally are and must be put before formal council meetings.

    The proper forums however for addressing any issues are of course at formal council meetings. By posting on here I am merely attempting to try to clarify these issues for your benefit.

    At formal council meetings members of the public are given time to ask any questions. There are 6 Full Council meetings a year, 6 Finance meetings, and 6 meetings of Leisure & Amenities plus 12 Planning meetings and the Town Assembly. That is 31 separate meetings at which the public can raise questions. To date I have not seen you at any meeting ( although as you refuse to say who you are I cannot be sure ) but from the tone of the questions asked I do not believe you have ever attended one of our meetings. Presumably you were busy working on all 31 occasions.

    I am now getting bored with this issue and have said all I am going to say. Can we please now move on to something else so we can argue about a different topic.

  27. Cheers Roger. We are amused to see your tactics to run away from the hard balls. Your elopement from the Charlie and Lola episode of the Town Council is really comical. Where are your other mates at the Town Council? Are they sitting behind the screen and watching it? Are they zipped up robots or have they all forfeited their backbones too? Petty politicians.

  28. Roger,

    For clarity:

    Informal encounter = meeting in the corridor, toilets. Perfectly acceptable.

    Informal meeting = organised get together of councillors. Not acceptable.

    When you’re bored = attempt to end a debate you have clearly lost. We elected you, and we have every right to ask questions.

  29. FYI: Matts, Last week we emailed all BS Cllrs, about this shameful succession episode, but got merely 3 responses. First one was from a junior councillor who apologized for his poor attendance record. Poor guy, let him live! The second one was from a sun tanned chap. He bragged of his attendance record and availability, but explained his ignorance about the Vice Chair’s interests. He asked us for an opportunity to meet and added that the Council shall work for people’s needs. In that given situation, we found him funny. The third response was from the Chair, who used all tactics to hide flaws of his sister whilst giving us a false assertion that he shall investigate the complaint. After that, we never bothered to talk to any Councillors. We understood them well. It’s futile. Meanwhile, we posted it as a public comment in this website and pleased to see many residents’ response to it. We found that many Councillors have awful feelings; however not have the guts to challenge it. Many are under phobia, similar to North Korea. We are sure that this tumour shall soon demolish them. Let us wait and see what they are going to do.

  30. Toxteth

    For the very very final time.

    What about specific party meetings where either Conservatives, Labourites or Libs gather together to discuss policy issues. Outsiders are often excluded so are these party specific meeting unacceptable. You cannot be serious.

    As regards your assertion that because I am finding this subject tedious therefore you have won the argument I find ludicrous. In your dreams !!!

    As for the other contributions on here I do not fully understand your arguments. Does it matter who anyone is related to. As a matter of fact Ben’s sister was elected by the whole council. I think its called democracy.


  31. Cllr Avenin, would you please care to answer my question, raised previously but not replied to:

    “when you accuse voters and residents of this town of having a lack of moral courage is this your personal view or one endorsed by your party?”

    Thank you in advance.

  32. Mouse

    You have taken my words and completely twisted them. I most certainly did NOT accuse voters and residents of having a lack of moral courage. Most of the residents if they have a query are quite prepared to come to our meetings and stand up and give their name and address when asking a question.

    It is you and your ilk who sit at home carping and hiding behind their keyboards and are frightened of identifing themselves that are the moral cowards.

  33. Roger
    Your defence of the town council is amusing in the extreme. I say this as a cllr who served the town for over 18 years until last May.

    One of my main criticisms of the council from May 2007 to May 2011 was the secrecy that had crept in. The “informal” meetings were a feature of the last council where decisions were made before the meeting and simply voted on at the meeting. That was why I walked out of one meeting calling those cllrs present a bunch of wa****s. It was so obvious that any discussion at the meeting was meaningless because you’d had your “informal” meeting previously.

    This new council and the previous one is run by a bunch of “senior” cllrs who silence anyone who disagrees with them; I know I’ve seen it first hand in relation to the “new” office situation.

    At last some residents are beginning to see that having 15 Tories running things is not the best option for the town as there are no checks and balances. Let’s hope that coming 2015 when there are local elections again residents take the opportunity to vote other parties onto the council. And No, I won’t be standing again.

  34. Dear Jon,

    I am glad you find my comments amusing. I aim to please.

    While your criticsim might have some bearing in truth during the previous administation I think you would find that the new administation is far more open and democratic. Unlike other governance we do not have a Whip and are totally free to say what we think. And we do.

    I would be interested to know who you think has ‘silenced’ whom regarding the new office build. The way you have portrayed this might cause the casual reader to believe we are in some way related to the Mafia. This decision was all taken on democratic votes the first of which I believe you were actually present yourself. Sorry you lost but that’s how it goes.

    Finally Jon I think you should ‘come out’ and use your real name.This silly pretentious non de plume fools nobody. You could even use Ex Councillor in front of your name.

  35. In the Bristol Post this morning:

    The youngest mayor in Bradley Stoke’s history is due to be elected tomorrow.

    At the town council’s annual general meeting, Councillor Charlotte Walker (Cons, Lakeside) was expected to be confirmed as town mayor for the coming year, succeeding her brother Ben.

    Ms Walker, who has lived in Bradley Stoke since she was 11, became the town’s youngest ever councillor last year and was promptly elected vice-chairwoman by her colleagues.

    In keeping with convention, she is highly likely to take the role for the coming year.

    Read more: Town to get youngest ever civic leader

  36. Roger
    I could even use the title of Alderman which was bestowed on me back In October by South Glocestershire Council (the 1st Alderman in Bradley Stoke)…. but there’s no fun in that.

  37. On BBC Radio Bristol this morning:

    “A woman from Bradley Stoke will become the country’s youngest elected Mayor when she receives the chain of office this evening.”

    Interview promised before 9am.

  38. The BBC has discovered a 21-year-old Mayor somewhere else in the country, so Ms Walker can now only claim to be “the country’s youngest female Mayor”.

  39. Ed, will you be interviewing our new mayor to seek her views on what she brings to the role based on her life experience, what improvements she will be championing and how she would like her townspeople to measure her performance?

  40. Can someone please explain to me how a 24 year old has the wisdom, experience and ability to hold such a position, no matter how ceremonial or not that position is.

    Presuming that she is university educated then she will have approx 3 years of experience of working for a living – how is that enough to be able to make decisions that may affect large multi million pound companies?

    My suggestion, get out quick love before you make this town into even more of a joke than it is already, and take that clown of a brother with you.

  41. Jon,

    I think you may have misheard when South Glos gave you this ‘award’. Surely what they meant to say was ‘ Olderman’


  42. Roger,

    I’m loving our little conversation, despite the fact you believe I’m a moral coward hiding behind my keyboard. Of course, slinging insults is the best way to treat your electorate (!).

    Back to my previous points: I find it interesting that Jon has arrived and raised many of the issues mentioned here already. Policy decisions of a party? Perhaps I can forgive you deciding broadly what you are interested in sorting behind closed doors. I’m not sure everyone is happy when you begin to discuss specifics behind those same doors. Then, surely the openness and transparency of local government vanishes.

    Would you rather not have an open town council where everybody knows what decisions were taken and – most importantly – why, and how that decision was made?

    I’m only asking the questions … I’ve no vested interest either way. I’m just interested in the debate. I’m not sure you’ve quite answered the questions raised here.

  43. When Lola got the BS chain from Charlie, the much awaited South Glos chain which Charlie was longing for has been taken off from him. Let the people save themselves from these hyped creatures.

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