An article, headed “Parish Poll Shambles” in the latest LibDem newsletter, Focus, has elicited an angry response from TTADRA.
The summer edition of Focus has started to hit the doormats of Thornbury homes. The front page includes an article on the Parish Poll, which was conducted on 26 May, and at which 72% of voters rejected South Gloucestershire Council’s plans for Thornbury High Street.
The short article, according to Thornbury Town and District Residents’ Association, contains so many distortions of the truth that it is difficult to know where to begin. Not all “people queued for over an hour”, for example, because 40 minutes seems to be nearer the truth.
The Residents’ Association also says that it is also not true to say that many people “felt they were denied their right to vote as they couldn’t wait in the queue”. Admittedly, some older people found it hard to wait for long in the cold, and others decided to come back later, when the queues had reduced, but Focus does not define what it means by “many”, when the overall turnout during the five-hour polling period, which is all that is permitted under Parish Poll rules, was not far short of the turnout over the much longer full-day polling period allocated for local elections. The Polling rules are determined by Statute law, and the Poll was organised and administered by Electoral Services department of SGC.
Nobody who joined a queue to vote before the 9.00pm deadline, was denied the right to cast a vote.
The article points out that the two Parish Polls, held at the same time, cost the Town Council just over £8,500, which would have to be recouped in Council Tax from Thornbury residents. What price do the Liberal Democrat members of Thornbury Town Council place on democracy? If they and the town’s three South Glos Councillors had taken a more proactive and stronger, questioning stance against South Glos Council’s intentions in the first place, then perhaps the need for a Parish Poll would not have arisen. The scale of the public opposition to the scheme was already known to the Councillors long before. In addition, does the Town Council complain about the cost to the taxpayer of a local Council election, which happens every four years? How many Parish Polls have been held in Thornbury in the past four years? Does the Town Council not include such contingencies in its budget?
The article then goes on to call into doubt the need for a Parish Poll on the future of the Armstrong Hall complex, saying that the trustees had already promised “to consult on any options before the poll was called”. This demonstrates a clear failure of the Town Council to grasp the fact that trust and confidence in the Council to act in an open, honest and democratic manner over the possible disposal of the property had been eroded to such an extent that additional guarantees were required.
Finally, the article suggests that “many” had not been able to express their views in the Poll, and that this would call the result into question. How many? Again, the LibDem newsletter has relied on the vague assertion of “many”, without further definition. The Poll was conducted and counted by Electoral Services, not by the Town Council, and all the applicable legislation was followed. How can the Town Council now complain about the result? In these circumstances it borders on the absurd to say that the result has been brought into question simply because it does not accord with the wishful thinking of the town’s LibDem Councillors that all this inconvenient fuss would disappear.