Caistor ‘treated with contempt’ over pavements slips
Residents of Caistor might be surprised to learn this week that jet-washing work “has been carried out” to make the town’s pavements less slippery.
The claim was made public at Caistor Town Council’s monthly meeting on Thursday night (March 8, 2018) by resident Cliff Rust.
A manager in Lincolnshire County Council’s Highways Department was reportedly responding to a complaint by Mr Rust.
Before Mr Rust began to describe the contents of a recently-sent reply by email, he asked everyone at the meeting if they thought the work had been done. The answer was a resounding ‘No!’
A build-up of algae on many of the town’s pavements, where distinctive pale-coloured paving was laid about a decade ago, has led to a proliferation of complaints.
In the past six months, there have been a number of falls causing injuries that have required hospital treatment.
In December, Lincolnshire County Council’s Highways Department suggested that flower planters around the town should be removed because “there might be some connection between the planters and the algae problem.”
The planters were largely installed by volunteers for Caistor in Bloom.
A leading member of Caistor in Bloom, Michael Galligan, is also a town councillor. Cllr Galligan was instrumental in keeping up the pressure for the jet-washing work to be carried out.
The suggestion to remove the planters from around the town had led Mr Rust to write a letter of complaint to the county’s Highways Department.
In the public forum of Thursday night’s meeting, Mr Rust read out a response he had received “confirming that the slabs were jet-washed in the week commencing February 19”.
Mr Rust was clearly angered by the claim. He added that he had requested the manager to make a site visit four times, but the manager replied: “We feel that a site meeting is not required at this stage.”
“They are treating Caistor with contempt,” said Mr Rust. “He is supposed to be an investigating officer and he is not coming out.”
Mr Rust asked the town council to write expressing concerns at the delays in work to remove the algae.
Cllr Jacqui Hughes raised the matter later in the council meeting.
However, the discussion became dominated by concerns about how the town council conducts its meetings.
At one point in the discussion, Cllr Hughes seemed to lose her train of thought, and the Citizen’s representative unthinkingly supplied a name that Cllr Hughes had been trying to remember.
The council’s standing orders prohibit members of the public to speak during the meetings, other than during the public forum.
The Citizen’s representative realised her mistake immediately and apologised, which was unacknowledged.
In response to Cllr Hughes, Town Clerk James Hanrahan said there were several items raised in the public forum that were “outside the agenda” and asked if the councillors wanted them to be included in the next meeting’s agenda?
Cllr Carol Mackenzie said the public should be reminded that the forum was intended to discuss items on the agenda.
Cllr Michael Stopper added that members of the public had “interjected in the last couple of meetings” and it was “not appropriate.”
The Citizen’s representative has not made any other interruptions at recent meetings.
Mr Hanrahan closed the discussion by saying the public should be encouraged to write to the council with their concerns.
While the Citizen’s representative admits her mistake, and repeats the apology, she does not agree that Mr Rust had raised a matter that was “outside the council’s agenda”.
This is because the agenda item: “clerk’s report” is usually associated with the fuller title: “Clerk’s Report on Matters Outstanding”. This phrase is commonly used at other parish-level council meetings and has been used by Caistor Town Council in the recent past, as the screengrab below of January’s agenda shows (It contains a wrong date near the signature).
The former clerk had been asked to pursue the matter and the latest update had been delivered at the town council’s February meeting, which Mr Rust attended.
At the February meeting, Lincolnshire County Councillor Tony Turner reported that the work had been due to take place in the week commencing February 12th, but had been postponed.
As the matter was not resolved, the Citizen contends that it was still “outstanding” and it was reasonable to assume that it was part of Thursday night’s agenda under “Clerk’s Report.”
However, given that Mr Hanrahan has only recently taken on the role, and missed the February meeting because of pneumonia, he would have been heavily reliant on information being passed on to him.
- In what seemed to be a more tense meeting than normal, the recently-appointed town clerk was queried several times, but for unclear reasons, regarding his style of presenting information. In one exchange, Cllr Michael Stopper asked the town clerk who had made a particular recommendation? The town clerk replied that he was putting forward his own recommendation and in the subsequent conversation, it seemed to be suggested that the town clerk was not welcome to make recommendations. The Citizen has 35 years’ experience of reporting council meetings at all levels and has never witnessed an exchange like this in a council chamber before. In her experience the practice of officers making recommendations in reports to councillors has been widespread for decades. Council officers are regarded as having “superior knowledge” – a greater level of expertise regarding matters relating to local government – and their recommendations are respected, but not always adopted.