The big wheel that is politics turned once more in May, with local elections signalling the end of the ride for a large batch of former councillors, as new ones ran on excitedly from the queue to fill their seats, and strap themselves in.
Yes, Wymondham welcomes an almost entirely new Town Council. And it’s as colourful as a travelling circus tent, featuring 7x Lib Dems, 4x Labour, 2x Greens and 1x Conservative.
Like any carnival, becoming a councillor has proven a hit with families. Among the ranks are father and son, Joe and Paul Barrett (Green), wife and wife, Lucy Nixon and Suzanne Nuri-Nixon (Lib Dem) and husband and wife, Julian Fulcher and Annette James (Lib Dem).
The net cast far and wide to find us new members then...
Farewell To The Old Ringmaster
The new council’s first meeting was its AGM on 16th May. This is where the council sets itself up legally for the year and chooses people for various committees and posts.
In a quirk of proceedings, it’s the incumbent mayor who chairs the AGM, until the new one is elected. This gave Kevin Hurn (Con), jokingly referring to himself as “mayor for the next five minutes”, an opportunity to re-thank staff, councillors and most of all his wife, for their support over the last four years, which he described as “a rollercoaster ride”.
It’s great when councillors guess the theme of this month’s Town Council Watch in advance.
Roll Up, Roll Up
The main attraction of the evening was the election of a new Mayor.
Cllr Julian Halls (Lib Dem) nominated Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon (Lib Dem). Cllr Tony Holden (Con) nominated new Labour councillor Michael Rosen but couldn’t find anyone to second it; Mr Rosen’s Labour colleagues deciding now wasn’t the time for their man.
With no other nominees, no vote was required and Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon was chosen as Mayor for the next year.
Cllr Nuri-Nixon comes with experience of course, having been on the council during some of its most-notable decisions in recent years:
Minutes from 2018 indicate she voted in favour of constructing their £2 million+ new office building and she voted against supporting youth mental health organisation Cup O T last year, for instance.
Ahh. The wind of change blows forth.
Cllr Annette James (Lib Dem) was chosen as Deputy Mayor.
The council then rattled through a few more formalities and appointed members to its various working groups and committees (see their website), before we got to an interesting section on the council’s financial rules.
Cllr Tony Holden, who spent much of the evening with his hand up asking questions, had an amendment to suggest. He wanted to reduce the “discretionary” amount the Town Clerk can spend without asking councillors, from £10k to a set of much smaller limits: “I think to allow up to £10k of public money to be spent without any input from councillors is dangerous.”
Cllr Michael Rosen (Lab) was keen to learn more: “There’s quite a lot of detail in there. And we need to know a bit more about the type of spending, to know what limit is appropriate for the Clerk.”
The Mayor then voiced her position on making quick-fire decisions about detailed financial proposals: it was best to dodge-em:
“I would like to defer this, if we can, to another meeting. We have a room full of new councillors and it’s a lot to take in to be fair.” said Mayor Nuri-Nixon.
Cllr Holden continued to scream that he wanted to go faster than that, if someone would second his amendment. But no-one fancied a bite of his toffee apple.
“We’re a new council, so give us a bit of time to get our feet under the table.” came the Mayor’s response.
TCW may have found a new drinking game here. It's a shot for every time you hear 'new council' in future meetings.
Cllr Todd Baker (Lab) sensibly asked the Clerk to make sure the suggestion was definitely on the agenda for the next full council “in order to assuage the concerns of Cllr Holden that this might go overlooked”.
Assuage. Well, that’s immediately raised the average level of vocabulary in this column. Some assiduous lexical selection there from the new Central Wymondham member.
It was a tricky night for the FTSE listed trillion pound bank Barclays, whom the Town Clerk described as ‘notoriously difficult' when it came to registering new signatories for the council's accounts.
Town Council Watch has approached Barclays CEO, Coimbatore Sundararajan Venkatakrishnan for his reaction.
And that was that for the AGM. The first proper meeting of the full council happens on 6th June, when the public will get a first glimpse of what the new council plans to do.
Will it be tunnel of love or a big dipper? Only time will tell.
TCW is sure it will be a cakewalk.