Residents demand answers over town council’s secrecy

The Oxford Times: Witney’s Corn Exchange Witney’s Corn Exchange

WITNEY town councillors have been accused of secrecy after once again barring the Oxford Mail from a meeting over the town’s halls.

The council told the newspaper to leave the meeting on Monday where it was discussing selling Langdale Hall so that it could pay for repairs for the town’s Corn Exchange.

It has claimed there were confidential matters to discuss, but the power it claimed to be using is for the exclusion of both the media and public. It allowed Terry Powell, a member of the public who sits on an advisory group, to stay.

Residents speaking at the annual town meeting at Langdale Hall on Wednesday night asked for an explanation from the council and said they wanted to know more about the progress of the facility’s multi-million pound renovation.

Tony Stark, from Woodford Mill, was concerned about meetings taking place behind closed doors. He said: “People like to know what’s going on, otherwise it feels quite secretive.”

Deputy mayor Jeanette Baker said the council had made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and had to protect “commercially sensitive” details.

She claimed a previous newspaper report had almost “jeopardised” the funding.

Mrs Baker said: “Once we know more about it, we will be more open about what we’re doing with it. I would like to have more open meetings and transparency but some of it is very commercially sensitive information and until it goes to ratification with full council we can’t take it any further.”

Mrs Baker said Mr Powell was allowed to stay because he had been an “invaluable contributor” in advising the council. She told the 26 residents the Corn Exchange would be a community, heritage and arts centre.

Comments (7)

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9:49am Fri 14 Mar 14

windrushview says...

I was at this meeting .Well spoken Tony Stark . Have to say virtually everyone we spoke with agrees with you ,the entire few years of this shambles has been made worse by the Councils secret meetings and lack of transparency .Even the meeting Wednesday evening was most unprofessional ,much like this Town council it seems . Roll on election time I exclude the only town councillor for Labour in that comment . Having followed this new council since the start of the Corn Exchange saga/pantomime so many of us are completely disillusioned and dont even bother turning up for meetings because inevitably we are sent out ...or made to feel surplus to requirements Anyone would think this is what the Town Council wants the tax paying members of the public to feel . lol
I was at this meeting .Well spoken Tony Stark . Have to say virtually everyone we spoke with agrees with you ,the entire few years of this shambles has been made worse by the Councils secret meetings and lack of transparency .Even the meeting Wednesday evening was most unprofessional ,much like this Town council it seems . Roll on election time I exclude the only town councillor for Labour in that comment . Having followed this new council since the start of the Corn Exchange saga/pantomime so many of us are completely disillusioned and dont even bother turning up for meetings because inevitably we are sent out ...or made to feel surplus to requirements Anyone would think this is what the Town Council wants the tax paying members of the public to feel . lol windrushview
  • Score: 5

12:44pm Fri 14 Mar 14

the wizard says...

Just what does Peter Dorward and his members have to hide. They are elected by the towns voters who have a right to know what is said at these meetings. So I think the Oxford Mail should be giving a much higher profile to these meetings and what goes on and if the paper is shut out, all the more reason to keep knocking on doors as the public want answers.

So come on Mr Transparency Dorward, answer your towns folk, what is going on, what is being said and by whom, and where are we with the Corn Exchange and the Langdale Hall debate. We the public have a right to know which is not up for dispute or negotiation. If you have nothing to hide then spell it out. Coming out with spin and politics will show the public you are not worthy of your position. Plain answers please.
Just what does Peter Dorward and his members have to hide. They are elected by the towns voters who have a right to know what is said at these meetings. So I think the Oxford Mail should be giving a much higher profile to these meetings and what goes on and if the paper is shut out, all the more reason to keep knocking on doors as the public want answers. So come on Mr Transparency Dorward, answer your towns folk, what is going on, what is being said and by whom, and where are we with the Corn Exchange and the Langdale Hall debate. We the public have a right to know which is not up for dispute or negotiation. If you have nothing to hide then spell it out. Coming out with spin and politics will show the public you are not worthy of your position. Plain answers please. the wizard
  • Score: 1

2:20pm Fri 14 Mar 14

West Oxon Webwatcher says...

As a now former Clerk to a Parish Council, i.e. Witney Town Council is no more than a parish council, I have prepared Lottery funding applications in the past and whilst there are financial details to be inserted, there has been nothing that I would consider confidential. I think the council is just trying to cover up matters that might be a little embarrassing and if the current members are not re-elected at the next elections that will be that they deserve.
As a now former Clerk to a Parish Council, i.e. Witney Town Council is no more than a parish council, I have prepared Lottery funding applications in the past and whilst there are financial details to be inserted, there has been nothing that I would consider confidential. I think the council is just trying to cover up matters that might be a little embarrassing and if the current members are not re-elected at the next elections that will be that they deserve. West Oxon Webwatcher
  • Score: 4

3:40pm Fri 14 Mar 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

West Oxon Webwatcher wrote:
As a now former Clerk to a Parish Council, i.e. Witney Town Council is no more than a parish council, I have prepared Lottery funding applications in the past and whilst there are financial details to be inserted, there has been nothing that I would consider confidential. I think the council is just trying to cover up matters that might be a little embarrassing and if the current members are not re-elected at the next elections that will be that they deserve.
I suspect that all it will take is for candidates to pledge to publish all historic relevant documents for them to get in...
[quote][p][bold]West Oxon Webwatcher[/bold] wrote: As a now former Clerk to a Parish Council, i.e. Witney Town Council is no more than a parish council, I have prepared Lottery funding applications in the past and whilst there are financial details to be inserted, there has been nothing that I would consider confidential. I think the council is just trying to cover up matters that might be a little embarrassing and if the current members are not re-elected at the next elections that will be that they deserve.[/p][/quote]I suspect that all it will take is for candidates to pledge to publish all historic relevant documents for them to get in... Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

9:02pm Fri 14 Mar 14

windrushview says...

I re posted the articles in the Oxford mail and The Guardian.com onto Witney town Councils facebook page . I also asked just how much money has been and is being paid out to Oxford Inspires for the advice they are giving the council. Looked earlier and the posts i put up have vanished. One wonders where they have gone .Interesting .
I re posted the articles in the Oxford mail and The Guardian.com onto Witney town Councils facebook page . I also asked just how much money has been and is being paid out to Oxford Inspires for the advice they are giving the council. Looked earlier and the posts i put up have vanished. One wonders where they have gone .Interesting . windrushview
  • Score: 0

6:28pm Sat 15 Mar 14

OutToPasture says...

I had dealings with Witney Town Council as part of one of their community groups which was designed to give residents a voice over local community matters. Ironically, they never wanted the public there and went out of their way to actually prevent the community getting involved in a community group.

These people are out of touch and too concerned about their own agendas and personal profiles. There needs to be change as the current lot are just a joke.

They are hiding something, its just how long it takes before it becomes public knowledge.
I had dealings with Witney Town Council as part of one of their community groups which was designed to give residents a voice over local community matters. Ironically, they never wanted the public there and went out of their way to actually prevent the community getting involved in a community group. These people are out of touch and too concerned about their own agendas and personal profiles. There needs to be change as the current lot are just a joke. They are hiding something, its just how long it takes before it becomes public knowledge. OutToPasture
  • Score: 1

10:46pm Sat 15 Mar 14

windrushview says...

Well said Out To Pasture,some of us went to meetings when the corn exchange first closed and we listened.
We soon realised we werent really wanted at these meetings as there were more and more times we were excluded after the first few minutes.

My friend and myself have been spoken down to and felt very belittled by a member of the Public halls committe when we spoke with her ..we were told to move forward ,not look back and despite being in our 60,s and knowing about life we felt like scolded school children .

So many of these people are ,in my opinion ,and like you say, so full of their own agenda and profiles ,personal importance .
Things are being hidden ,such things go on as history in Witney has proved . At the Annual meeting last week so many of the councillors didnt turn up ..alot from the new Public halls committee,
Noticably the Chairman of that committee.
How bad is that ..one evening per year for an Annual meeting.

I didnt have much faith in the last WTC but have to say since the election of the new leader and some of the councillors, secrecy seems to have got much worse.
These people seem to forget ..it is us who pays the taxes and they are serving US,the public,.its their choice AND IF THAT IS WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO DO THEN DONT SHUT US OUT ,TREAT US AS THICK ,STUPID OR INVISIBLE ,WE ARENT ..WE WANT OPENESS, HONEST INVOLVEMENT ,and information .
All this secrecy stinks and i have to add ,the silence from this Town council has got worse since Councillor Dorward took over . Agree with Councillor Harvey on many things or not at least when he was in charge he was frequently reported in the press and we knew he was alive .Sadly not the case these days except for Duncan Enright who is always honest ,open and willing to talk and listen.
Re allowing a member of the public into the closed meeting ,surely if this person is on the advisory/steering committee as stated by Ms Janette Baker at the Annual meeting he provides his information to that committee and it is relayed back to WTC by the leader of that steering committee
,who ,I think is Councillor Roger Curry but could be wrong now . Why the need for a commoner to be allowed to stay yet the press be excluded ..my opinion ..this stinks. Yes ..I am angry .
Well said Out To Pasture,some of us went to meetings when the corn exchange first closed and we listened. We soon realised we werent really wanted at these meetings as there were more and more times we were excluded after the first few minutes. My friend and myself have been spoken down to and felt very belittled by a member of the Public halls committe when we spoke with her ..we were told to move forward ,not look back and despite being in our 60,s and knowing about life we felt like scolded school children . So many of these people are ,in my opinion ,and like you say, so full of their own agenda and profiles ,personal importance . Things are being hidden ,such things go on as history in Witney has proved . At the Annual meeting last week so many of the councillors didnt turn up ..alot from the new Public halls committee, Noticably the Chairman of that committee. How bad is that ..one evening per year for an Annual meeting. I didnt have much faith in the last WTC but have to say since the election of the new leader and some of the councillors, secrecy seems to have got much worse. These people seem to forget ..it is us who pays the taxes and they are serving US,the public,.its their choice AND IF THAT IS WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO DO THEN DONT SHUT US OUT ,TREAT US AS THICK ,STUPID OR INVISIBLE ,WE ARENT ..WE WANT OPENESS, HONEST INVOLVEMENT ,and information . All this secrecy stinks and i have to add ,the silence from this Town council has got worse since Councillor Dorward took over . Agree with Councillor Harvey on many things or not at least when he was in charge he was frequently reported in the press and we knew he was alive .Sadly not the case these days except for Duncan Enright who is always honest ,open and willing to talk and listen. Re allowing a member of the public into the closed meeting ,surely if this person is on the advisory/steering committee as stated by Ms Janette Baker at the Annual meeting he provides his information to that committee and it is relayed back to WTC by the leader of that steering committee ,who ,I think is Councillor Roger Curry but could be wrong now . Why the need for a commoner to be allowed to stay yet the press be excluded ..my opinion ..this stinks. Yes ..I am angry . windrushview
  • Score: 1

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