I think I can safely say that all 15 Eastwood Town councillors know me by now. I’m not a man to sit idly by while residents’ views get ignored week after week at successive council meetings, without raising a hand in protest.
Since May 2007, I’ve attended 95 out of a 100 council meetings, right up to the present day, and have to say that for the last 18 months I’ve watched council chamber behaviour go from bad to worse.
At that first meeting I attended, there were something like 50 members of the public present. The 95th meeting consisted of only 6 councillors and 1 member of the public.
As individuals, I believe they all do good work for the community, but when they assemble at a council meeting, it becomes nothing less than a humourless, chamber of horrors!
Is it any wonder that the public have no wish to come and view their proceedings?
The soliders march through Eastwood in spring of this year, was a great success, with all councillors working to get the public out, lining their route through our town.
The press was full of applause for a wonderful show of support. Shame we couldn’t lay on anything special for the Queen’s jubilee. I heard a councillor remark that there wasn’t enough time. No? I suppose 60 years is a bit short on notice.
My biggest complaint has to concern the Council Awards Meeting on Monday, May 14, 2012.
The guest of honour was to be 90-years-old Mrs Hazel Braithwaite. She had given 50 years plus service to Eastwood Town with 18 years as Mayor. Another notable guest was ex-councillor Doug Wilcoxon, with 20 years service to Eastwood.
There were members of the nursing/caring professions and two young students from Eastwood Comprehensive School. All were treated to an undignified show of gross bad manners and sheer lack of respect.
Earlier, Mrs Braithwaite’s elderly friend whispered in my ear that help would be needed to get that lady down the ramp as she was too frail to attempt it on her own. I rose and discreetly passed on the message to one of the councillors, as the meeting was already in progress.
After waiting a good five minutes with no response from the chair, I took it upon myself to leave the chamber and assist Mrs B. myself. She then had to sit at the back of the hall. Afterwards it fell to me to escort her back. She said, “it wouldn’t have happened in her day!”
I was ashamed to be a member of this community and apologised on behalf of all the councillors for her shabby and indifferent treatment, on what could and should have been an evening to remember.
Well.... maybe it was, but for all the wrong reasons.
The irony was that a buffet, fit for a queen, had been laid on, but most of the people present chose not to bother with it as they were too disgusted to stay and eat.
Where was the standing ovation as she entered? Where was the reserved seat of honour for her next to the Mayor?
This came only two days after councillors had been shown how to behave by Eastwood’s residents, waving and cheering our brave troops through our town.
Further to this, at a Grants Award Ceremony on October 8, 2012, councillors were again shown how community-minded people make every effort to benefit their Eastwood neighbours, usually on a very small income.
Those award winners were following in the footsteps of Bill Gregory and Paddy Farrell, who have each put in 50+ years service: to the benefit of Eastwood’s cricket and football teams.
At a time of great austerity, this would be a brilliant opportunity for our town councillors to come together and forget political backbiting and show some real old-fashioned gumption and positive, ‘can do’ leadership.