THE NEW style Annual Town Meeting organised by Hedon Town Council on Thursday 17th April 2014 was a success (in the personal opinion of the Editor of the Hedon Blog).
In comparison to the last few years since the Hedon Blog has covered the meetings, the Annual Town Meeting was quite well attended with around 15 – 20 members of the public present (I counted 19 non-councillors). But what was really different about this meeting was the level of preparation that had gone into its organisation. The Chairs of each of the council’s main committees delivered quite detailed reports on the work undertaken during the last 12 months; whilst Chair and Town Mayor John Dennis gave a more general overview of some of the issues faced by the town.
But it wasn’t just councillors reporting back; community groups which had received funding from the council had also been invited to report back to the community and St Augustine’s Church and Hedon Museum Society had each sent representatives to speak to the meeting. This annual opportunity for community groups to report back on their activities is surely something that should be encouraged and developed further.
The Open Forum session took tabled questions first. Questioners asked their question in full and received a considered response from the council. After the tabled questions, there was ample time to take others from the floor.
As a format for a meeting, it was far more productive than previous Annual meetings.
Steve Gallant, was one of the questioners on the night, and had mourned the loss of some of the spontaneity that comes with traditional ‘question and answer’ sessions, and while that is undoubtedly true, the benefits gleaned from having much more considered information being given from the Council makes that loss acceptable in my view. And actually the format still allows time to ask those on-the-spot-questions.
There is still some resentment and bitterness existing in the town since the resignations that took place from the Council in November last year – and there was an expectation that some of that might have been reflected at the Annual Meeting. It had even been suspected that the new format for the meeting had been designed to deal with that, and prevent issues from being raised – but in actual fact the opposite was true; the questions being published in advance allowed for a wider debate around issues to take place before the meeting – as well as at it. That surely must be a good thing?
The Hedon Blog will report back from the Annual Meeting during the course of several articles next week. But the purpose of this post is to congratulate Hedon Town Council on adopting this new model of Annual Meeting. As a Blog that is concerned about local democracy, increasing accountability and transparency – then that job just seems to have got a little bit easier!
Editor, Hedon Blog