Council Meeting in Tunbridge Wells


Last night I went, as a member of the public, to a Council Meeting in the Town Hall Council Chamber. These are some pictures of the tidying up left at the end of the over three hour meeting. Having been in the Council Chamber before I am no longer over impressed with the original table and chairs from the Victorian Town Hall and all the grand pictures and things. However, alot of people haven’t been in the Council Chamber so: Here it is. It is very nice, but, so few public and press attend that the public gallery above is kept locked, and we had to sit on very uncomfortable chairs behind the Councillors. While the Town Hall is a beautiful Art Deco building like The Assembly Hall, Library and Museum, the heating is very erratic and the windows draughty, so went from hot to cold like nobodies business.

The evening starts with prayers, for which you may leave the room, and the formal welcome of the Mayor, as Chairman, Deputy Chair and the Chief Executive of TWBC. There were eight apologies, then some announcements by the Mayor.

The proper meeting seemed to be a constant points scoring, bullying session, between our ruling Tory party, and the minority opposition. We have a few Lib Dem Councillors, two UKIP, one Labour and one Independent. There is some acting, some mockery, and sometimes a degree of smugness. When going to the polling station to vote, you are trusting that your Councillor will then speak for the good of you, as a resident. It seemed at times that maybe Councillors had forgotten that.

There were a few topics that had brought extra public to view, notably a vote on Members’ Allowances, Council Tax 2013/14, and motion that a section 215 was applied to the former cinema site. Many other matters were discussed and mentioned, and all a very interesting process. However it basically boils down to, if your party leader suggested they were for or against something before the meeting – that’s generally the way each party voted. Brave on the few who would take opposite view or abstain. Also well done to all those that stayed to the end, as seven Councillors went home early.

This was one reason for approving a increase in Councillor’s allowances, that they do put many hours in, and some travel to meetings from the countryside, while others in town have to travel to events elsewhere. It was suggested that a higher allowance would encourage more young people to stand, as the current average age of Councillors is 60. A view was put forward, by one of the Tories, that this work is something all Councillors would be aware of before standing, and that it may be better to not accept the rise to show electors they were not greedy. However, the vote went FOR, although individual Councillors can refuse to accept their personal rise.

Following soon afterwards was a back slapping, we are so good, our Council Tax is one of the lowest in Kent, look at the excellent services we provide, shall we vote to increase Council Tax rather than looking as possible savings or how to work more efficiently. FOR.

As I blogged last week, on February the 14th, planning applications were put in regarding demolition of the former cinema site. This was heralded as a great victory for the Leader of the Council, David Jukes, and also interfered with the motion to apply a Section 215, which was voted down after amendments were made. This means we have the application to demolish, but we have no time scale, so we have what may seem a victory, but could still leave us with a crumbling mess in another twelve years. 

Other matters discussed, and the full minutes, will appear some time in the future. Finding them on TWBC website will be another difficult job; we are awaiting their new, easy to use site, as much as the demolition of the cinema!


5 thoughts on “Council Meeting in Tunbridge Wells

  1. Very neat summary. Seems like little has changed of the public performance that is the council meeting.since I lived in TW. 😉

    But for balance, the full meetings are a summary and decision-making forum. Much of the work goes on beforehand and after. Many councilors (not all, but the good ones) do 95% of their work outside the chamber: surgeries, sub-committees, community liaison – school, workplace visits, pursuing residents’ individual problems, liaising with parishes and county, correspondence, etc. Just saying.

  2. Thank you Alison and Maggie. I realise this is a small part of the work involved, but it’s a part many people DON’T see. A discussion on facebook has revealed though that a lot of people feel they DON’T see their councillors at all.

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