Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by PanBiker »

Not had a post in this thread for six years so I thought last nights shenanigans was worth a mention.

Item 10 on the agenda was to co-opt two new councillors to replace the two who stood for election on a Lib Dem ticket at the last full election were duly elected but then resigned creating two vacancies. The vacancies were advertised on the Town Council website and paper notifications were posted on a couple of notice boards around town. A suitable number of electors did not come forward to trigger an election so the council moved to co-option to fill the vacancies. Nothing wrong there, standard procedure. Due notice given but mainly you would need to have the internet and vist the Town Council website to know what was going on.

Using the same channels townsfolk were asked to put themselves forward for co-option if they wanted to serve on the Town Council. There was a cut off date for when applications had to handed in to the Town Clerk. Applications included a personal statement from each candidate.

It was revealed at the meeting last night that 7 people had applied for the two vacancies. In this case the process had to move to some form of ballot. There were 10 (from12) councillors present at the meeting. The ballot method chosen was a form of PR based on one form (Gregory System) STV algorithm. Using this method calculations would be made to two decimal places in each round. The Town Clerk had an App on her computer for calculating the results.

Now this is where it went a bit pear shaped and not as transparent in operation as the council would have you believe that they operate.

Tom Whipp who is the chairperson announced that candidates had each been allocated a letter between A and G and each of the councillors was asked to rank their choices in order of preference. The names of the candidates were not announced or which letter in the sequence they had been allocated.

Sally had applied as in the last Town Council election when she stood had the next highest number of votes from the full town ballot but was not elected at the time. Another of our branch members also applied.

TC meetings are conducted at the moment with the councillors all at home using Zoom. Tom Whipp as chairperson then live streams his screen on YouTube so that anyone with access can watch the proceedings. There is a live chat facility on the YouTube channel and as we watched the proceedings Sally asked why the names of the candidates had not been given before the ballot. She was told that it was due to GDPR. This question was not mentioned by the chairperson so they moved straight to the ballot. Each councillor was asked in turn to give their rankings. Some did it A-G some did it 1-7 no consistency.

The first selected was Candidate A who won in the first round. Then the lowest scoring candidate in that round was eliminated and their votes redistributed to those still in the race. Round two, no clear winner so another eliminated and on to round three where candidate G emerged with a narrow but decisive lead. After a bit of debate and a comment from the chairperson along the lines of "it all worked OK when we practised it", names were then given to candidates A and G and declared elected subject to them accepting and signing up!

No other candidates were mentioned or rankings given for where they emerged in the running order. Needless to say neither of our candidates were chosen.

Now this begs the question, why was the list of candidates and their allocated letter for the ballot not announced at the start? GDPR and the personal data it protects surely cannot apply here as under any circumstance I have ever come across names are always declared on the ballot. Makes no difference what kind of ballot it is you know who the candidate is. After the ballot all votes are counted and allocated to each candidate and declared, this is the correct and transparent way to conduct the proceedings.

The way that played out it could be construed that that those selected could have been allocated to candidates A and G after the ballot. The maths in the middle doesn't actually matter. Documentary evidence could also be produced to back this up after the event. I'm not saying this actually happened but the way it was conducted does leave this possibility as an option.

You can watch it yourself on the link below. Item 10 on the agenda starts at 1h 19m into the meeting. It's a bit like watching paint dry but worth watching if only for the Lib Dem members who are are obviously enjoying it judging by the grinning going on between them.





Callum Hird and Mick Strickland were elected. We know that Sally and Neil didn't get elected and the other three candidates are secret.

Sally posted congratulations on Barnoldswick Talk, It has nearly 100 replies with various wriggling going on. Tom Whipp is trying his best to defend the indefensible.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by plaques »

Yes I did take the trouble to watch it although the link was broken and I had to do a search on YouTube.
To my mind the councilors would be presented with a list of the candidates ordered from A to G but it sounds like they weren't listed in alphabetical order.
The (Gregory System) STV algorithm appears quite complex and once entered into would give the right answer. The Town Clerk just presses buttons QED.
Although has councilor Whipp said they must avoid any suggestion of Trumpism rigged ballots if the names had been offered up only minutes prior the voting then any collusion would have been more apparent in the first run off weightings. After the first winner was selected the second choice required a number of iterations of the App, so unless the collusion started well before the voting and trial runs were made to get the right result I doubt there is enough grey matter available to do it on the fly.
I'm always in favour of a good conspiracy :geek:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by Tripps »

I've had a quick look, and if as I understand it the Gregory (no me neither) method is used, then without some help, It's mathematically a bit beyond me. However I think the ranking choices of each Councillor for each candidate were called out, and the whole process flowed from that? Thus it should be possible for the whole process to be checked by someone who does understand it, or has a copy of the algorithm which was used.

Is that how it is? If I was one of the unsuccessful candidates - I' d say that was worth doing. :smile:

Ps- Sorry - I've just re read it. You are right. Without declaring the names of the candidates and their correspondence to the letters A-G there is scope for mischief. Make a fuss - I would. If GDPR doesn't apply - then challenge the result. It's called democracy. :smile:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by Stanley »

I just have to trust everyone to be honest and vigilant as once it goes beyond a straight vote I am lost!
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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Sally called in the Town Council office yesterday and asked for a copy of the results. Town Clerk refused to give them on the grounds of non disclosure of names covered by GDPR. She could reveal to Sally that she was candidate D. Sally asked why she couldn't reveal the names of the other candidates and was told it was down to an oversight on the application form which should have had a tick box to allow candidates to explicitly choose to have their names revealed. This error on the application was apparently discovered a week before the council meeting so Sally then asked why the candidates weren't contacted regarding this? Seven candidates who had given name, address, email details, mobile and land line numbers. She was told that they thought about it but decided not to action it as the minutes of the meeting were due to be circulated and there wasn't time!

All the councillors have said that they ranked the candidates solely on experience from the statements given. One actually said on Facebook that she completely discounted one applicant because she couldn't read their writing.

Sally declared that she started campaigning for more nursery provision in the town over 40 years ago. She was elected first to the Neighbourhood Council which became the Parish Council and eventually the Town Council that we see now. She served a total of 13 years on the Town Council. She was chairperson and held the chains for a year. She served on just about every committee they had over the years. During the same time she was elected to Pendle Borough Council and served on Planning, Road Traffic and Town Centre committees. Within her own party structure she was the first female chairperson of the Constituency Labour Party and was Constituency delegate to the Labour Party Conference. She is a founder member of Bosom Friends our local cancer support group and has been a trustee for 20 years. She worked for LCC and was employed at the PHAB (Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied) centre for young adults in the town. She is a WASPI activist and has worked with Barlick in Bloom to help keep the town tidy.

Now, looking at the results, from the 7 candidates there are only two who scored zero points on the vote weighting system. One of them was candidate D (Sally) and the other was candidate F from memory. I will lay Lincoln odds that candidate F is our other applicant Neil, (also served before on the Town Council).

If candidates were ranked solely on merit how on earth did she end up with absolutely no points at all?

In Facebook land the admin of Barnoldswick Talk page has turned of comments on the post.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by plaques »

PanBiker, if 'Neil' could confirm his own listing letter then using the first results and those of the Gregory it may be possible to reverse engineer the numbers to see if any mischief had taken place. This would be much easier if the other if the other candidates did the same and passed the information on to you.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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To which party (if any ) did the successful applicants belong?

I'd first find out conclusively that the GDPR didn't apply - then by means of a Freedom of Information request - ask the Council to reveal all.

Anthony Charles Linton Blair said that his biggest regret was bringing in the FOI act.

Sally's record is impressive - too much competition for the incumbents? I think the Council has a problem here. :smile:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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Not sure of any party allegiance, not asked for on the application but of course Sally has a track record and is a well known Labour supporter.

And with regard to knowing how the letters were allocated the problem there of course is that the other candidates are unknown. I have no axe to grind with who was elected, Callum is the young guy who has just taken on the remembrance poppy coordinator role for the RBL and Mick is a long standing retained fireman in the town. Both upstanding members of the community. My beef is the flawed system used to select them. It does not hold the council in good light as being totally transparent. A lot of folk have said the same over in Facebook land. They made an error with the application form, had time to correct it but chose not to which doesn't help.

Run of course by the same team that brought you Biscuit Gate. An attempt to discredit our candidates at the last council election. That went as far as a report to the returning officer and threat of involvement by the police. No place really in local affairs and filibustering of the finest degree. The LD dominance of the council and the individual members who maintain that they do not operate on political grounds yet all stand under the LD ticket on the ballot.

The fear I think is that they don't want to risk a council member who may not agree to everything without question.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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PanBiker wrote: 11 Dec 2020, 15:39 My beef is the flawed system used to select them.
You're beginning to sound like Donald Trump! :laugh5:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by Stanley »

Reading all of the above leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Is there no recognised route for questioning the result?
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by plaques »

I don't think the flaw in the election system is anything to do with the mechanics of the voting or the Single transferable vote (STV). This procedure is more like a job interview where the people doing the selecting (grading) may have a vested interest in the outcome. Their own personal bias and affiliations showing through. Trump springs to mind. It is not like having a separate body of people who have to remain unbiased and make their judgement solely on the applicants ability. However if this is the approved method of co-opting people onto the council you are always going to get some element of bias built into the results.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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plaques wrote: 12 Dec 2020, 08:27 the people doing the selecting (grading) may have a vested interest in the outcome.
Perhaps that applies to most selection procedures?

I think 'justice should be seen to be done', and the fact that only the selectors know which candidate is which, is not transparency. It will need someone very determined to take it further. I tried to get the original Town Council election results to see who had been elected and by how much, but was unable to find them. Anyone know where they are?

I had ideas for a long time that the draw for the FA Cup was arranged to produce attractive news worthy fixtures. I saw stories of cold and warm balls - very ingenious !
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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For the record. When a vacancy arises the council is obliged to post notification of the same to the townsfolk. A ballot to fill the vacancy can be triggered if 10 electors request it. The existing council have a stance of resisting this course due to the costs involved. Failing the triggering of an election, applications are invited from interested parties. The field is open to all and is not limited to having stood for election before.

Applications are vetted by the existing councillors and voted on accordingly. The method of voting is at the discretion of the council and will depend on how many applicants have applied. In previous vacancy situations, candidates have been invited to meetings to pitch their case for co option. The situation is different at the moment of course with the current restrictions for meetings.

There are three issues as I see it that should be addressed. The first is that the council did not act in a timely manner when the first of the vacancies arose. That was I believe, back in February or March. They sat on that vacancy with no call for a replacement councillor.

When the second vacancy occurred it took a bit of prompting from some electors to get the ball rolling so to speak. They then had two vacancies to fill which was likely to attract more applicants which would automatically complicate the proceedings.

There does not seem to be any intention from the council to revisit the actual election results and maybe ask any of the candidates that didn't quite make it to serve. I find that rather strange as the very fact that someone has put themselves up for scrutiny by the electorate should count for something.

The council has 14 councillors, 10 from the remaining 12 were present to make the selections to fill the two vacancies. An STV model of voting is a common way as this only requires one round of rankings from each councillor and then the maths in the middle takes care of the results.

Slip up number two was that they left out the option for declaration of name tick box from the application. Failure three was that they had time but chose not to do anything about it.

Quite a few of the councillors maintain they are not political but all originally stood for election on a Lib Dem ticket as Team Barnoldswick. So to all intents and purposes all existing councillors are from one party. Some claim independence but did not get elected as such.

I am not aware of Callum or Mick's political leanings or if they have any at all. I just hope that when they get stuck in they are their "own men".
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by Tripps »

Well - I've fond the original election results from May 2019.
Two things jump out to me. In a town with a Conservative MP - there is not a single Conservative candidate, and the size of the Labour vote.

PanBiker wrote: 12 Dec 2020, 11:00 There does not seem to be any intention from the council to revisit the actual election results and maybe ask any of the candidates that didn't quite make it to serve. I find that rather strange as the very fact that someone has put themselves up for scrutiny by the electorate should count for something.
I don't think there is a question of 'didn't quite make it' more like 'were comprehensively rejected' Id say. Must say the voting numbers surprise me. In fairness Sally did best of all the Labour party candidates.

**************************************************
Barnoldswick Town Council - Coates Ward
Number of councillors to be elected: 7
ADAMS, Marjorie Liberal Democrat 855 ELECTED
CLOUSTON, Euan Robert Labour Party 201
GASKELL, Lindsay Micheala Liberal Democrat 792 ELECTED
HUNTER, David Andrew Labour Party 191
MILLS, Jayne Margaret Liberal Democrat 852 ELECTED
PEARCE, Mike Liberal Democrat 722 ELECTED
PICKERING, Liam James Liberal Democrat 697 ELECTED
SHELDRICK, Heather Mary Labour Party 281
WHIPP, Tom Liberal Democrat 887 ELECTED
WHITTINGHAM, Mike Liberal Democrat 698 ELECTED
Voter turnout: 29.88%. Rejected ballot papers: 48


Barnoldswick Town Council - Craven Ward Number of councillors to be elected: 7
AYLOTT, Jean Labour Party 204
CHURCH, Chris Liberal Democrat 697 ELECTED
GROSE, Liz Labour Party 195
HARTLEY, Kenneth Liberal Democrat 835 ELECTED
HORSHAM, Andrea Labour Party 183
HOYLE, Jodie Marie Liberal Democrat 652 ELECTED
LAMBERT, Sally Labour Party 352
ROSE PARKER, John Richard Liberal Democrat 638 ELECTED
ROSE PARKER, Kirsty Ellen Liberal Democrat 641 ELECTED
WEST, Emma Liberal Democrat 657 ELECTED
WHIPP, David Michael Baxter Liberal Democrat 966 ELECTED
*****************************************************************************************
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by PanBiker »

The other thing that should jump out is the turnout less than 30% of eligible voters.

That particular election was an all out job and The Lib Dem's fielded a full slate in both wards. David Whipp has a very strong personal vote and that transfers to his son Tom and daughter Emma. The vote essentially carries the other less than Liberals but on the same ticket along with them.

We have made inroads over the years but it is generally a very hard nut to crack.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

Post by Tripps »

No comment on the turnout - seemed about normal to me. I never saw much place for national parties in local politics. The Libs are noted for strong / ruthless electioneering - everywhere.

Would it be out of the question to stand as an Independent candidate, on a very impressive personal record, and perhaps distance from the Party, which the town seem anxious to avoid? I was disappointed to see Calluna get beaten. I'm sure she'd have made a great councillor.

There''ll be another day - though quite why anyone wants do do it is a bit of a puzzle to me. :smile:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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It's always difficult as an Independent as you don't have any resources to back you. Before we became properly politicised so to speak, in our early married life, Sally first stood as an Independent but got nowhere. Once we realised that our beliefs aligned with a socialist agenda we joined the local party. A group of like minded people are a lot stronger than any individual. Unless of course you have the charisma of Gandhi or the ruthlessness, (insanity) of Pol Pot or Hitler!

Turnout in our flawed gladiatorial system bothers me and is why I advocate compulsory voting. It's not healthy to have administrations elected on low turnouts. Time folk stood up to be counted and if they cant do it voluntary I would make them. Same thing in a way as having your name on the ballot or declared when you stand for election.

A bit like organ donation. Anonymity should be waved unless you tick the box, not the other way round. Omissions by the organisers wouldn't matter then.
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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Just as an example of how our Town Council operates. The latest meeting held this last week had 10 from 14 councillors present. The two new co-opted members who were chosen at the last meeting were present but only one commented briefly. This in itself can be excused for new inexperienced councillors, time will tell on this. From the 10 councillors only 5 actually took part and 3 from the 5 including David Whipp were all from the same family. Apart from one question by a new councillor no one else had anything to say on any of the issues discussed. No alternative views put forward so no discussion apart from between the clerk and the 5 from 14 possible contributors. :sad:
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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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When I used to attend Parish Council meetings - they suspended Standing Orders for 15 minutes to allow questions from any members of the public who could be bothered to attend. There were rarely more than single figures, unless there was an issue. Is there any facility for this on a Zoom meeting? I don't see it as being impossible, and would certainly be desirable, and do-able. The more they say it can't be done - the more it should be done.

I think your reaction to the current situation is admirably restrained. Sally must be fuming :smile:

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Re: Town Council - Co-option of Councillors

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Tripps wrote: 14 Feb 2021, 17:50 When I used to attend Parish Council meetings - they suspended Standing Orders for 15 minutes to allow questions from any members of the public who could be bothered to attend. There were rarely more than single figures, unless there was an issue. Is there any facility for this on a Zoom meeting? I don't see it as being impossible, and would certainly be desirable, and do-able. The more they say it can't be done - the more it should be done.
That used to be the norm at the start of pre-Covid meetings. Our party always made a point of having a few members physically present at the meetings to scrutinise business and brought stuff to the table when appropriate which was usually noted and then tended to be forgotten. There is a live chat facility during the meeting but this is limited to text only and is at the discretion of the Chairperson whether any of the comments are read out.

At our last branch meeting we voted to send correspondence to this last meeting regarding the conduct of the co-option ballot. It was mentioned towards the end of the meeting as "noted", no mention of the subject, content, who it was from and it wasn't read out so in all effect buried. :sad: We will check at our next meeting whether our Branch Secretary got a reply, I doubt it very much.

Might be an idea to ask the clerk if members of the public can virtually attend to put questions to the council. Writing to them doesn't work.
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