An informative site built through necessity, due to the appalling behaviour of local Councilliars supported by the restrictive censorship policies of the local press in the Portishead area who feel it is their duty to remove any factual statements of wrongdoings by local Councilliars

Councilliars

       Council meetings where grownups behave as children and decisions that had already been made over a cup of coffee are pushed through and petulant councillors have thrown their toys out the pram and left the room because they have been seen to be far from honest…...

Text Box: Town Council address- October 2012

My name is Liese Stanley and I have been involved with the skatepark issue in Portishead for over 5 years now. My involvement began when I was a new town councillor and this council asked me to be its representative on the Portishead Skatepark Project committee. Anything that I state here tonight I can corroborate with evidence.
After 4 years as a councillor, I decided not to stand again for council because of my frustration, concern and disappointment as to how local issues that affect our community are played out on a political stage and the lack of due process and transparency afforded to such an important issue.
Whilst I continue to hold members of the Skatepark Project in the highest esteem, the same cannot be said for all councillors here tonight.
Some of what I have witnessed over the previous 5 years include the following:

A councillor stating “If you want favours from councillors, do not write to the papers.”

A councillor claiming that Charterhouse rules apparently apply to some meetings and discussions.  (Apparently, Charterhouse Rules was instigated in 1927 and means that people putting forward information during a meeting can remain anonymous- I had to look it up!)


A councillor stating that part of the problem was that the Skatepark Project did not “try to make friends and influence people.”

Days before landlord’s consent was to be decided, Cllr Lake, the decision maker was told by a councillor, that myself and a colleague were seen, on a busy Saturday near the High Street, throwing darts at pictures of councillors. Clearly not true but, for a while, believed by Cllr Lake.


I read emails that told town councillors to withdraw their support for a skatepark at the Lake Grounds because the conservative party line, at district level, was against it.

I saw the previous chair of this council confirm, during a town council meeting, the support of this town council for a skatepark at the Lake Grounds, but weeks later he claimed, at a scrutiny hearing, that this was not the case.


I have read lies, claiming that play equipment would be installed at the Lake Grounds on the footprint of the proposed skatepark and that this work, to be undertaken by this town council, would be started and completed in 2010. I have read that Gordano School had donated land for a skatepark. Neither statements were true, but both were written as fact to the planning appeal inspector by a member of this council who was against the Lake Grounds site.

I have heard councillors cast aspersions on members of the Project, claiming them to be” silly”, “very silly” “misleading youth”, “politically led”-  all without foundation.


But sadly and more recently the games continue to be played.
At the end of January this year, Cllr Burden suggested that the Skatepark Project consider land previously used as a golf course on Nore Rd. Two weeks later there was a press release announcing that North Somerset Council was putting the same piece of land out for tender as a golf concession for the site.
I raised this shortly afterwards at a Town council meeting and Cllr Burden expressed his embarrassment and surprise that he was unaware of such plans.
It is now clear from emails sent at the time, that Cllr Burden, and indeed all of the Portishead district councillors, were made aware of the intention by North Somerset Council to offer such a golf concession as early as the beginning of December. This was 8 weeks prior to the suggestion made to the Skatepark project that it could be a potentially suitable site for a skatepark.
I have given the copies of the emails to all councillors here tonight who were not included on the original circulation list.
I also have here, and please pick up copies if you see fit, copies of two other emails. Both are from the Portishead Skatepark Project reiterating their willingness to accept help and discuss any potential sites for a skatepark in Portishead with district councillors.
The first was sent following a meeting in March 2010 attended by members of the Project and Cllrs McMurray, Pasley and Baker. Later that month a further email from Tony Mosely, Chair of PSP stated, “I confirm that we are happy to work together and have not rejected your offer of help in finding an appropriate site for a skatepark. I am sorry if you misunderstood our intentions as we are looking forward to further talks, as agreed at our meeting.”
However, it seemed that the Skatepark Project’s intention to continue with a planning appeal for the Lake Grounds site, alongside a willingness to discuss other sites, made some councillors involved unhappy and sadly no further communication ever occurred.
Months later, in January 2011, a press report quoted Cllr Pasley who stated that a developer was willing to donate monies towards a skatepark in the town.
Again, Tony Mosely wrote asking if the Skatepark Project could meet with the developer. Cllr Pasley responded that the developers name must be kept confidential and that the money was conditional on the skatepark being at Gordano school.
Last month Cllr McMurray stated at Town Council, that the Skatepark Project had never responded to offers of help. In fact, referring to the meeting of March 2010 and offers of assistance he said “And guess what, guess what, they never came back!”
These emails show that they most definitely did.
Cllr McMurray’s statement was not just misleading, it was simply not true.
Quite frankly councillors, the residents of Portishead deserve better. The youth of Portishead deserve better and as long as these games are played, as long as these issues raised remain unresolved, I shall be here at every council meeting reminding you of that fact.
Liese Stanley
October 10th 2012


It is not acceptable to lie in a letter to an appeal inspector.
It is not acceptable to state support of an issue at town council and then weeks later claim that the town council do not support the issue, during a scrutiny panel meeting.
It is not acceptable to cast aspersions on members of a community group without giving factual evidence, especially when the aspersions are clear enough to cast doubt over
It is not acceptable to tell colleagues at town council to stop supporting an issue because their political party colleagues at North Somerset do not want it.
It is not acceptable to for members of a town council working party to meet other councillors to discuss the remit of that working party and then call it a sharing of a cup of  coffee rather than a meeting which has been minuted.  Especially when councillors present later ask if another meeting is to occur and talk of the action points agreed. This is most definitely not sharing a coffee, it is most definitely a meeting.


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An interesting event occurred on Wednesday 10th October 2012. Reality actually dawned on a few arrogant councillors that local residents were actually far more intelligent than them and more community spirited.  They could also make their points of concern heard at Town Council Meetings however many times local Councillors (who are meant to listen and represent) rudely interrupted or tried to stop them speaking.
The following is the address made by one such resident. Councillors Terry & Walters (if it sounds like a double act, it’s probably because it behaves like one) chose to storm out of the room and not return for the main meeting as it appears they were not happy with the home truths that were finally being shared. 

The address, which was both 100% factual and was accompanied by documented proof was unfortunately cut short but for those who weren’t in attendance and who will never read about this in the local press…..

The address:

When I spoke at last month’s meeting, I explained that in doing so, I had broken a personal promise not to address councillors until inaccurate and false comments made by some of those councillors had been rightly addressed and corrected.  My home town of Portishead, which I love, is more important to me that my personal principles so I am here again tonight to praise one councillor but also continue to highlight the sad situation that Portishead residents are still being misled by incorrect information.  It should not be the public’s role to do this and it should not be necessary in the first place if everyone adhered to the principles of openness, transparency and honesty.  

Before I explain further, I understand that a decision may be made to stop tape recordings of these meetings and I would just like to state formally, for the record, that I firmly believe Town Council meetings should continue to be recorded.  The use of technology acts as protection to the public, as well as the councillors, and one positive step forward would be a web cam or video recording which many councils already adopt.  This will encourage good conduct by all and will dissuade anyone, whether they are a member of the public or a councillor, from using town council meetings as a forum for misleading Portishead residents.

The transcript from the last meeting has been particularly useful and those who were in attendance will have heard me challenging Cllr McMurray’s incorrect comments regarding Portishead Skatepark Project, which incidentally were made without any of the group’s members being present.  The misleading comments were also made after public participation when councillors are fully aware that the public is not supposed to challenge what has been said, however wrong that information is.

Communication at town council meetings needs to be clear.  At last month’s meeting when the council’s own Wheel’s Working Group was discussed, incorrect terms of reference were used by town councillors.  There is and only has been one such “Wheels Group” and this has been the council’s own Wheel’s Working Group.   This should not be confused with the Portishead Skatepark Project which has done sterling work in achieving planning permission for a wheels park.

Cllr Burden as acting Chair, said at the last meeting that the, “Wheels Working Group was made up initially of Cllr Philpot, Cllr Clark and himself and latterly joined by Cllr Koops.  Cllr Pasley is not a member of that group and has not attended any of our meetings”.  Emails are a confusing method of communication because pertinent issues regarding a second and larger, free for all, outside skatepark or wheels park were strangely not copied to all the councillors in the Working Group.  Perhaps tonight someone can explain please why Cllr Pasley, (who according to evidence has been opposed to the site which already has planning permission and whose contact with the NSC Deputy Leader Cllr Ap Rees, led to Kilkenny Fields being discounted as a location), was invited as an impartial councillor to meetings of a Working Group designed to assist Portishead Skatepark Project in achieving a second skatepark in the town?  Why does Cllr Burden say that Cllr Koops joined the working group when Cllr Koops said in writing on 24 September she is not a member of this group?  Why did Cllr Burden say Cllr Pasley had never attended any working group meetings when Cllr Pasley according to FOI emails, has attended meetings?  

The transcript of the last town council meeting confirms that Cllr Pasley has not actually discussed any new sites despite Cllr Lake saying three sites were being actively considered by Cllr Pasley.  In fact, the locations that were mentioned at the last town council meeting, were all sites that had been considered previously by Portishead Skatepark Project. 
But deemed unsuitable either by North Somerset Council or by the principles of the matrix system which our own councillors said should be adopted when considering a site.  The FOI on the golf course location is particularly informative.  Cllr Pasley it would seem, suggested this site to Peter Burden (despite nearby Kilkenny Fields being clearly vetoed for varying reasons that would also apply to the golf course) and then Peter Burden continually referred in writing to the golf course location as a suggested site, despite knowing months previously that North Somerset Council had explained clearly that the authority had other plans for this site.

I have to add even more questions to the list previously asked by residents to this council.
Cllr Pasley after two years, has now disclosed the secret developer as Persimmon and that the secret central location on offer two years ago was, “within the vicinity of where the Sainsbury’s front will be”.  
Yet I have it in writing from our local authority’s senior strategic planning team that when asked if there was any Section 106 monies from the Sainsbury’s and Lidls development, there was no such money available for a skatepark in Portishead. 
If a developer site near Harbour Road was available (assuming this is the area Cllr Pasley means by in the vicinity of Sainsbury’s), then why did Cllrs Pasley and Felicity Baker later state that developer money was “conditional on the skatepark site being at Gordano School”?
Why is Cllr Pasley saying he will go back to talk to the developer, when there is no Section 106 money available?
Remembering that town council currently supports a second, larger, permanent free for all skatepark and indeed Tory councillors were elected on that basis having stated it in their manifestos), why did Cllr Pasley on the 6th September, 2012, state to town council colleagues, “As Arthur in his term as Chairman suggested, perhaps the Town Council should consider establishing a new wheels park for the town’s youngsters irrespective of the PSP who seem to have their own agenda?  Why does a skatepark need to be a permanent concrete structure, which will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to build, maintain and administer?  I do wonder who is in charge here, the Town Council or the PSP?”.
May I remind Cllr Pasley that the PSP didn’t just propose a skatepark.  It was a general wheels park.  I cannot see any agenda by the PSP except providing a much needed facility for our town, a facility incidentally that Cllr Pasley himself wanted to provide at Gordano.  Is Portishead councillors’ real issue here not really about the skatepark or our young people, but that they want to take ownership of the idea away from the group who first began it?

I would like to ask Cllr Reyna Knight to confirm to the public here tonight please, that she walked out of a secret meeting attended by the developer and Mr David Pasley because she felt, and I quote, “I did not go into politics to take part in that sort of discussion”. Will Cllr Knight now disclose please what the alleged “sweeteners” on offer were?

Cllr McMurray stated incorrectly last month that Portishead Skatepark Project “never came back” to councillors after help was offered to them.  Written evidence confirms an exchange of emails in which PSP clearly accepted help and asked for further meetings.  Cllr McMurray said also, “I think the Wheels Group have been very, very silly”. I was quite surprised to hear him calling his Council’s Wheels Group Working Party silly but he has since clarified in writing he meant PSP but he didn’t say this.  As it turns out, his comment was incorrect and PSP, rather than being very, very silly, was in fact very, very professional in its approach and very, very willing to liaise. Calling others silly for doing something right is in my mind what is really silly.

I do still feel that Cllr McMurray should retract his inaccurate comments and in future consider his own recollections a little more carefully before criticising a highly respected member of the Portishead community who has worked hard for our town.

Then I have to come back to Cllr Terry who at the last meeting, felt that Parish Wharf and Station Road should be considered for a skatepark.  Perhaps Cllr Terry should re-acquaint himself with the documentation because from that, he will see that it was North Somerset Council who ruled out Parish Wharf/Station Road because of the proximity to homes.  Not PSP as he claimed last month.  Cllr Terry also stated, “I do hope that the town continues to work to try to obtain a site and this town council consider putting some funding into that scheme”.  

This is really good news because at the Scrutiny Meeting in Weston Town Hall, Cllr Terry was heard by the public and councillors saying openly not only that Portishead Town Council is against a skatepark at the Lake Grounds but that the skatepark group need the town council’s help for grant applications and they would not get it for the Lake Grounds.  So why would the group get it for Station Road and not the Lake Grounds, when the Lake Grounds already had planning permission?  Why did Cllr Terry not tell the truth at that scrutiny meeting which was that Town Council supported the skatepark planning application for the Lake Grounds and supported also Application for Consent?  Cllr Terry, as town council chairman at the time, was not in a position to change the truth and could not, without a new vote on the matter by town council.

At the same district council meeting, Cllr Walters said, “I do not think the skatepark is needed at all”.  Now I don’t know whether he was talking personally or as a town councillor but I do know that his manifesto said he did support a second skatepark.  A transcript of that meeting will confirm his comment and he did not make reference to any location, it was a general no, we do not need a second skatepark.

Which brings me back to the praise I want to publicly give to one councillor. Her name is Cllr Jean Lord, who had a successful term of office as Chair for this town council in previous years.  I have always felt she has acted with integrity.  Now through an FOI request, I have evidence that she rightly challenged the inaccurate statements by her colleague Cllr Terry at that district council meeting.  She was the only councillor to do so and she pointed out to Cllr Terry that he could not change the decision of the town council without the matter returning to town council for discussion.

Having written to Cllr Terry asking him to explain his comments, Cllr Lord received a letter back one full month later dated 8th February, stating that town council support was prior to the planning inspector’s conditions.  Cllr Lord pointed out clearly to Cllr Terry he was wrong because the conditions were already in the public domain.  Questions regarding comments on funding remain unanswered.  

Soon after, the decision on Application for Consent was made and Cllr Lord could see no point in continuing to question Cllr Terry.   As a resident I see every reason to continue because it was not just about one councillor’s inaccurate comments, it was about the future wheels park facilities for Portishead, which after all these years, still remains unresolved.   Playing political games is one thing.  Playing with the wishes and needs of Portishead young people is a completely different matter and I think this town council has failed them with the exception of Jean Lord to whom I would like to say thank you for at least trying to hold colleagues to account.

Posset Pies comment:  If one councillor had the courage to ask questions of her colleagues why didn’t the rest show solidarity with her.  Why were the lies of certain councillors allowed to influence important decisions and more to the point, how often has this happened?

The council are very reluctant to allow their meetings to be recorded. Whether this is because they are ashamed at some of their childish antics (yes, they have stormed out the room in fits of petulance in the past), or whether they do not want to publicise their lack of honesty and transparency, who knows.  Fortunately some meetings do get recorded and we will soon be putting up transcripts of these meetings. We may even get our video friends to satirise them for the video age, who knows. It’s all down to time…. Meanwhile below are a few prime examples of recent public participation at these meetings …. Amazing how subdued a camera makes a councillor …...

 

*** Since this page was put up, it has now become law that council meetings can be recorded. Still the cries of ‘the recordings could be used to make us look stupid/dishonest/corrupt/inefficient/useless/self serving or whatever come from council quarters. We say, if you have nothing to hide then transparency should not be a problem. That also goes for members of the public who choose to support dishonest councillors over the interest of the community in which they live.  We particularly enjoyed the part where Mr David Oyns,  friend of Cllr Pasley and fellow objector to a skate park for young people described the recording as ‘sinister’. ‘Sinister’ is the manner in which councillors get friends to act for them, sinister is close door meetings with developers, sinister is blatantly spreading misinformation via the media, sinister is showing one face to the public whilst adopting another in matters that affect a lot of people. ‘Sinister’ is certainly not a member of the public choosing to follow the law and government legislation to make meetings that affect each and every one of us more transparent.

 

      At a recent council meeting a vote was taken on whether to proceed with the purchase of recording equipment to video meetings. Two councillors voted against, namely Cllr Terry, who has in the past tried to ban public participation altogether at meetings and Cllr Cruse, recently elected by 219 people in a by-election and who has previously sat on the same council. Ironically his decision for voting against was because it was his own personal opinion. Seems he has forgotten already that his role as a councillor is to REPRESENT the publics opinion at these meetings not try to impose personal agendas as was done by his colleagues over the skate park in the past….  Unusually these two councillors did not storm out the room when they didn’t get their own way…. Must have been a camera present?