Yesterday, in the Barnsley Chronicle, I read an article about how our newly elected Lib Dem councillor Hannah Kitching had been treated when she had turned down the nomination to sit on the planning board of Barnsley council. You can read the article here
The claims in the article made me feel incredibly uncomfortable so I watched the part of the council meeting referred to in the article on the council webcast. The webcast of the council meeting can be viewed here – if you click and watch section 33 of the agenda you can view it also.
Watching it I got madder and madder. It is clear to see that this is nothing other than an orchestrated campaign to humiliate and belittle a newly elected councillor for no other reason than she is a danger to the status quo and she had the temerity to be elected in the place of a Labour councillor. I believe this has been carefully crafted by the Labour dominated council, ably assisted it seems by what little opposition Labour has in the chamber.
Look first at where Cllr Kitching has been positioned in the chamber. Right out at the back, in a corner tucked behind a pillar well away from everyone else – nothing more than a way of highlighting the fact they want to isolate her.
Cllr Kitching had said prior to the meeting in email exchanges with the relevant councillors that she did not wish to accept the nomination to the planning board. She has, like other councillors, accepted roles on other council committees. This was totally ignored by the leadership of the council because they wanted to use it to shame and belittle her.
Some would say why would Cllr Kitching decide against sitting on a board that is a key part of the work of the council – to be in on the key planning decisions, an aspect of the work of the council that is probably the most contentious and important that the council undertakes? Let us give some context to this. There are 25 members of the planning board. There are 21 wards represented on Barnsley council, each with 3 councillors, so 63 possible candidates. If you sit on the planning board, yes you have some input in some important decisions which affect the borough significantly, but you are unable to publicly comment on planning decisions made by the council or (and for me this is the most important aspect) deal properly with your residents questions and complaints on planning matters. You are effectively gagged from helping your constituents with planning issues that have been placed or will be placed before the planning board. Now with 25 seats on the board it is obvious that each ward ought to have a representative on the board. Penistone West, the ward Cllr Kitching represents and the one I live in, already has a representative on the board in Cllr David Griffin. To have more than one would restrict the work of our councillors in effectively helping their constituents. The other Penistone ward has two of its three councillors on the board – only Conservative councillor Robert Barnard is free to actively help his constituents in Penistone East with planning matters. So already the Penistone area has half its six councillors effectively gagged on planning matters and unable to proactively help the residents east of Dodworth. Cllr Kitching is rightly saying no, I need to help my constituents – we already have a representative on the board, we don’t need another, in fact if we had another that would seriously curtail the work councillors can do on our constituent’s behalf. Pity the residents of the Darfield ward where all three councillors sit on the board – how are their constituents helped when contentious planning decisions are made? What about the Darton West, Stairfoot or Worsborough wards where NONE of their councillors sit on the planning board. Surely if there is a vacancy then one of these 9 councillors should take up that place to spread the accountability fairly across the borough?
Of course the real reason is the other Barnsley councillors want to put Cllr Kitching in her place and are using every dirty, devious and despicable trick in the book to do so. Look at the webcast for yourself. Look at the pomposity of the councillors that speak after Cllr Kitching in trying to shame her into cow-towing to their demands. Their faux bonhomie in calling for her to “come on in” and arguments make no sense at all and in some cases are frankly ridiculous – Cllr Margaret Bruff for example proclaiming that all who sit on the council are “Corporate Parents” – well derr.. yes of course but what on earth does that have to do with planning Cllr Bruff??
No this is a disgraceful attempt by a bunch of Neanderthals to humiliate and yes bully a newly elected councillor so she can be properly put in the corner and gagged so that she doesn’t become the nuisance they know she could be and we in Penistone desperately need her to be. Thankfully I think Cllr Kitching is made of sterner stuff than these moronic councillors realise – I know she will put her constituents first and stand by her decision to speak for Penistone rather than be gagged by Barnsley.
Shame on those councillors who played their part in trying to humiliate her and shame on those who just sat and let this happen without even challenging it. You are disgraceful people who I hold in the deepest contempt for what you have done and are trying to do.