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**EXCLUSIVE** Melksham Town Council now in a “very, very dark place” following “farcical” meeting last night

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THE bitter row between Melksham Town Councillors took a bizarre new turn yesterday when a council meeting was cancelled, re-instated and then postponed after just a few minutes.

Former Mayor Jon Hubbard said the meeting was ‘farcical’ and that the town council is in a ‘very very dark place’. He told Melksham News that there was “considerable risk of the the council ending up in the courts with potentially significant financial implications.”

Wednesday evening’s full town council meeting was cancelled during the day by the Mayor, cllr Pat Aves. But following a challenge by cllr Jon Hubbard, who questioned the legality of the cancellation at such short notice, the meeting went ahead.

Melksham News was told by the Leader of the Council, cllr Vanessa Fiorelli, that the meeting had been cancelled – only to be tipped off by a member of the public that the meeting was still going ahead.

The meeting lasted just minutes and was postponed amidst more confusion.

No reason was given at the meeting for the postponement and there were differing explanations.

Cllr Fiorelli told us today (Thursday) that the meeting had been postposed because the Town Clerk was unable to attend. Cllr Fiorelli missed the meeting herself saying she was unable to log onto the online meeting. But other councillors say the meeting was cancelled because not enough councillors were present.

Only six councillors attended – Jon Hubbard, Martin Pain, Sue Brown, Kathy Iles, Geoff Mitcham (Chair) and Clive Jeffries who was on-line but had microphone issues. The other nine councillors didn’t attend. Councillor Adrienne Westbrook who was logged into the meeting said she was attending as an observer but not as a councillor.

On the agenda was a Notice of No Confidence in Councillor Adrienne Westbrook’s ability to perform the role of Deputy Leader with a recommendation that she vacates the post.

The motion followed a row at a previous council meeting in July which was covered by Melksham News and which resulted in heavy criticism on our letters page and on social media.

There was also a motion reminding councillors of the council’s Code of Conduct in reference to some councillors’ behaviour at the last meeting.

Speaking to Melksham News today, Cllr Fiorelli denied the meeting had originally been cancelled because of the controversial agenda items, saying it was because important financial matters were to be discussed which required the expert knowledge of the Town Clerk who couldn’t attend.

Jon Hubbard told Melksham News, the meeting was ‘farcical’. “The town council is in a very very very dark place,” he said. “I think that we have councillors who are ignoring the rule of law – not only the council’s own policies – but also Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972.

“They are making decisions and taking actions off their own bat and without reference to council. And their actions I believe constitute misconduct in public office.

“I contacted WALC – the Wiltshire Association of Local Councils – who advised me in writing that the mayor is not empowered to cancel a full council meeting, especially if that full council meeting is still advertised as taking place on the council’s website.

“I believe councillors acted outside of their authority, they acted independently as councillors and they acted outside of regulations. There is nothing outlined in law to allow an individual councillor or group of individual councillors to make decisions on behalf of a council.

“What happened yesterday (with the original cancellation of the meeting), whatever the rights or wrongs, or the reasons for it happening, that decision was not a decision of council, it did not go through the correct policies of council -for the decision to be made there is a very specific route it has to go through – that did not happen.

“And it has exposed the council to considerable risk of ending up in the courts with potentially significant financial implications.”

The developments follow a simmering row on the council which was revealed in a Melksham News story in early July.

Tensions flared at a full council meeting on 6th July with one councillor describing others as ‘not particularly pleasant’, whilst another labelled remarks made as ‘vitriolic’.

The arguments followed news that seven Liberal Democrat councillors switched to become independent with other councillors claiming they wanted to ‘hold on to the power structure that they’ve been holding on to for too long.’

In response, mayor cllr Pat Aves told Melksham News, “There was every intention of conducting the meeting on Wednesday evening. However, due to unforeseen events, our clerk was unavailable and therefore we could not go ahead with the meeting on that date.

“I notified all the councillors of the the situation and another meeting will go ahead at the earliest opportunity, when we have a clerk.

“All council meetings must be clerked by someone with SILCA training, and at such short notice there was not time to obtain a locum clerk. This is not the first time that one of our planned meetings has had to be postponed due to our clerk being unavailable.”

11 Responses to **EXCLUSIVE** Melksham Town Council now in a “very, very dark place” following “farcical” meeting last night

  1. Phil

    July 30, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Time to get rid of all Melksham Councillors, both Town and Without, and get someone(s) in that have the interests of the community at the heart of their tenure so we can leave this collection of dead wood, with their personal political agendas and mind boggling ineptness, behind. Melksham is on the cusp of major changes and opportunities, which requires real leadership not vacuous titles, and individuals with talent and integrity not posturing politico’s.

  2. Phil

    July 30, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Melksham without parish council are a brilliant. This has nothing to do with them. It’s clearly a handful of individuals on the town council who are the problem.

  3. Lucy

    July 30, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    These councillors put a lot of their time and effort into this. A lot of them juggling full time work and family issues. I know Mike very well and he puts a lot of passion and time into being a town councillor because he cares about the community so much .

  4. John

    July 31, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Well it’s great to hear such comments about Without Councillors linking them to the Town. No hint of evidence just waffle.
    If you are so incensed then get yourself on the ballot paper next May! There’s no pay, no allowance and many meetings to attend, and wait to be vilified by everyone with an axe to grind.

  5. Clive Jeffries

    July 31, 2020 at 10:25 am

    I would like to

  6. Clive Jeffries

    July 31, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I would like to point out that until now I didn’t know the meeting had been abandoned

  7. Mike Sankey

    July 31, 2020 at 11:25 am

    As Councillors we answer to the residents of Melksham…many of whom are rightly concerned about what is going on…I would urge all those concerned who are able to log into the next online meeting to observe how it is conducted and the business transacted. Details should be on MTC website

  8. Invisalign Nanaimo

    July 31, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    Posts are all wonderful. Thank you for putting a lot of work into it.

  9. Clive Horner

    August 1, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Town council complete and utter disgrace they don’t give a dam about HAMPSHIRE AND DEVON SHIRE PLACE they do not work for all the community all that matters to them is them selves and the Melksham in Bloom always moaning about money and wasting shed loads of money on MELKSHAM IN BLOOM

  10. John

    August 1, 2020 at 9:49 pm

    Hi Mike. As far as I am aware there is no requirement for a SILCA qualified individual to be present. Looking back it is clear that MTC have held previous meetings staffed by non-SILCA trained individuals.
    What is going on with the Town? Equally, surely Independent councillors cannot claim to be a majority for allocation on committees unless they are recognised as a formal group?

  11. Jeff

    August 3, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Focus on emptying the bins and cutting the grass. This ain’t Westminster, yo.

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