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Town Council Watch: Hygge Special

Local Democracy Sketch

Jimmy Young Published: 24 November 2023

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TCW lettering and a cosy scene
Hygge is a word in Danish and Norwegian that describes a cosy, contented mood evoked by comfort and conviviality - Wikipedia.

The days are getting shorter and so too are Wymondham Town Council's meeting agendas. At their November full council meeting, the main new piece of business was an item to change the font used on written proposals. But the Danes don't sit around and mope in the face of the barren winter ahead and neither does TCW. So switch on some fairy lights, make yourself a Sports Direct mug of mulled wine and snuggle up with your better half or a hot water bottle, it's a Town Council Watch: Hygge Special.

What do you mean I'm scraping the barrel for themes?

Minute's Silence

The meeting began on a serious note though, with a minute's silence held to mark the passing of former town councillor Jordan Murrell, who had died unexpectedly in October. The 29-year-old had been one of the council's youngest ever representatives when elected in 2021. His stepfather, Cllr Tony Holden, sent apologies for not attending the month's meeting.

Dude, Where's My Meeting?

We didn't have to wait long for the council to get back to form though. A monthly Finance Committee had been cancelled and it had spoilt Cllr Michael Rosen (Lab)'s snugly mood.

Donning his barrister's wig, he went about calling various witnesses to the stand to find out what had happened.

First to be grilled, the Town Clerk.

“There was actually so much business to be transacted, I'd like an explanation of how that decision was reached.” demanded Mr Rosen.

“Well,” testified the Clerk. “the decision was made in conjunction with the chairman of the committee. [I don't know] whether the chair would like to explain?”

So then the committee's chairman, Cllr Julian Fulcher (Lib Dem), was invited forward for cross examination:

“I was told there was no business to discuss.” Mr Fulcher told the court.

“And could I ask you who told you that?” probed Michael Rosen KC.

“The Clerk.” said Mr Fulcher.

Deary dear. Still, plenty for them to talk about next month at least. Every cloud.

Hygge And Make up

Next, councillors were to discuss plans for upgrades at Browick Rec that could exceed £800,000. But the convivial atmosphere soured after members highlighted other projects requiring money too, like making the town centre more accessible:

“I was getting confused here,” ruffled Cllr Lucy Nixon (Lib Dem) “as to whether the suggestion was that we, as a new council, should possibly go back on that £250,000 project which was agreed to revamp Browick Park. And I was just confused, because only two months ago we had a motion from the [Labour] councillors to my right here saying that the parks required urgent attention so I'm just a little bit confused if what you're suggesting is we row back on that decision.”

Tsk. Resorting to sarcasm's a real mood spoiler. You'd never catch TCW doing it.

Cllr Roly Frosdick (Lib Dem) urged a bit of level-headedness about it all:

“I think we're getting ourselves all in a bit of a tangle here and we don't need to.” he soothed, lighting some scented candles: “There are a lot of competing things for our money and I think we need to decide which ones we're going to spend it on and which ones we aren't”

Cllr Alex Perry (Lab) was in relaxed, jolly form. He told the group he'd been inspired by a coffee advert on the telly:

“These children are just playing football in the streets, and I'm sure you've seen it, someone comes along nicely and puts a bit of paint and does a bit of decoration on the local park and the children are playing again.”

For the North Wymondham representative, there was a lesson there in keeping things simple and not letting massive, lengthy projects get in the way of getting the basics right:

“Those smaller sums of money can make a big difference...it's just a bit of money to paint some rusty play equipment and it's just a bit of money to clear up some vandalism and that makes people feel safer in the area...if the coffee people think it, then it must be okay across the political spectrum and it can all be done and [the Clerk] Trevor can have a nice warm drink.”

Councillor Perry is a man who understands the ways of Hygge.

Public Participation

Next, a member of the public noted that the council votes on its outgoing payments every month but the public never saw anything about its income. “Is that normal?” he asked into the mic.

“It's normal for this council.” responded the Clerk.

Well, what further reassurance could anyone need that best practice is being followed?

A New Administration, A New Font

If anyone had worried nothing much has actually changed in the 6 months since May's local elections, Cllr Joe Barrett (Green) had a proposal that would make them eat their words. And those words would now be in a sans serif, minimum size 12 font. The serious point behind the proposal was to make council documents more accessible to more people. The welcome move was unanimously approved.

Next up, stop putting photocopies of printed-out agendas on the website that people with screen readers and search engines can't read. There's no joke here. Just good old TCW doing his civic duty.

Something hot, brown and soft in the middle

Before the end, we just had time to hear from Cllr Dave Roberts (Lib Dem) who'd been donning his waders and helping out residents on Norwich Road who had been caught up in flooding. But with overflowing sewers, it hadn't been the most-pleasant of experiences:

“I've got to say, at the time of my election,” recalled the new South Wymondham Town Councillor. “I did not feel I would be wading through all different colours of water.”

Oh I don't know... dealing with a constant slew of brown stuff flying at you from all angles? Sounds like the perfect preparation for life in local politics.

Dirty Laundry

Facebook users on the Wymondham Ways Uncut group this month were treated to a bizarre comment section battle over parking, between two users purporting to be a permanent member of the Town Council's office staff and a disgruntled ex-contract groundskeeper.

The root cause of the issue seemed to be groundstaff not being allowed to park in the same ample car park as office staff, at the council's new £2million+ office, ‘for safety reasons’.

If true, the fracas paints an unhappy picture of historical inter-staff relations at the council, with the contractor signing off: “I don't work for the council any more thankfully, please continue your mediocre work in the office.”

Other users questioned the wisdom of the permanent office staff member publicly engaging with workplace tittle tattle, describing their conduct as “absolutely shocking”, “rude” and “hardly professional”. The user refuted that.

The spat comes just weeks after the new council voted to avoid setting up a formal group to look at staff conduct and annual performance appraisals.

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