Page 16 - Phonebox Magazine June 2024
P. 16

Mercury Report
The first meeting of the Council Year is known as the Annual Meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC), not to be confused with the Annual Town (Public) Meeting, and is largely given over to administrative functions, such as electing a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor, reviewing the membership of sub-committees and reviewing standing orders and procedural and financial regulations.
A standard council term is four years, although the current council had served three years, owing to the previous council having run for five years due to the Covid pandemic, and an election was therefore due to be held in May of this year. Councillors Ron Hall, Debbie Hall, and Naomi Brock had all stood down. No one else had put themselves forward for election, which meant that all existing members who wished to remain on the council continued to do so, and no election was necessary.
This was in marked contrast to the events of 2021 when there were a large number of candidates and most of the existing councillors had either stood down or lost their seats, although few of the new councillors remained for very long and their resignations were either filled by co-option, by-election or remained vacant.
The council now consists of Chris Tennant, Christina Diamandopoulos, Colin Rodden, Dan Rowland, David Tyler, Debbie Whitworth, Deirdre Bethune, Ian Stokes, Jim Cooper, and Mary Prosser (and later Chris Shaw).
Public Participation
There was no one wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. Perhaps everyone was storing up issues to take to the Annual Town (Public) Meeting the following Friday, mused Mercury somewhat optimistically.
Election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor
Deirdre Bethune proposed Debbie Whitworth for Mayor, and Mary Prosser seconded. Is there anyone else wishing to stand asked Debbie? Silence. Is there anyone there asked Deirdre? Still silence, so in the absence of any other candidate, Debbie was elected without a vote, and she accepted.
For the role of Deputy Mayor, Debbie proposed Mary Prosser, and Deirdre seconded. Jim Cooper suggested the absent Chris Tennant. Has he shown an interest? asked Town Clerk Jane Brushwood. No, admitted Jim. In that case we can’t accept the nomination responded Jane, although she said she recognised that Chris is a very valued councillor.
Mary was therefore also elected unopposed.
16 Phonebox Magazine | June 2024
Apologies for absence and declarations of interest
Colin Rodden and Chris Tennant had sent apologies. Dan Rowland was not present and had not sent his apologies, although he arrived later, having been unavoidably delayed. Nobody declared an interest.
Co-option of new member
Chris Shaw had previously been a co-opted member of OTC from July 2014 to the election in May 2016, when he had stood down. Chris said he moved to Olney in 1992 and had lived in the town or surrounding villages since then. He has had 40 years of professional experience in the property market and social housing, and since Olney is expanding, whether it wants to or not, he said the council needed expertise in that area. He has also had experience in the charity sector as a trustee of the MK Parks Trust and chair of a care home charity with local and national care homes and is currently a trustee of the MK Community Foundation. Chris was unanimously elected and took his seat at the table.
Note: This still leaves four vacancies on the council during a time of rapid expansion for Milton Keynes so if any resident would like to offer themselves for co-option please contact the Town Clerk at townclerk@ or visit the council office in The Olney Centre.
Annual business
This consisted of a review of the following items:
a. To review the Scheme of Delegation and
Terms of Reference
b. Appointment of Members to Committees c. To review and adopt the Standing Orders d. To review and adopt the Financial
e. Review the inventory of land and other
assets including buildings and office
f. Confirmation of arrangements for insurance
cover in respect to all insurable risks.
g. Review of the Council’s and/or staff
subscriptions to other bodies.
h. Review of the Council’s complaints
i. Review of the Council’s policies,
procedures and practices in respect to its obligations under freedom of information and data protection legislation.
j. Review the Council’s policy for dealing with the press/media
k. Review the Council’s employment policies and procedures.
l. Determining the time and place of ordinary meetings of the Council up to and including the next annual meeting of the Council.
The makeup of the various committees will remain the same, minus the members who have stood down, meaning that some will struggle to be quorate. Deirdre Bethune noted that there was no mention of the Annual Town Meeting in the Standing Orders, although it is a statuary obligation to hold one between 1st March and 1st June. Deirdre proposed that the Standing Orders be amended to state that it will normally be held each May, except in an election year when it will be held in April, i.e. before the election, so that the council can present reports for the previous year. She noted that this hadn’t happened this year, and as a result the council no longer had a Chair of Finance to report at the forthcoming Town Meeting. The proposal was agreed.
To Approve the draft AGAR for submission
AGAR stands for Annual Governance and Accountability Return. The AGAR is a set of documents and financial statements that local councils are required to prepare and submit each year. It is an essential part of the external audit process. The Clerk explained that this is then subject to an internal order before being reviewed by the Finance Committee and then full council before submission to the external auditor. All this must be done before 1st July, but the internal auditor has been unable to complete the task due to a family bereavement, but it was now underway.
The meeting closed 19 minutes after it started, which is incredibly brief in Mercury’s experience.
Post-meeting odds and sods
Although the meeting was now closed the Clerk reminded councillors that the beacon on Barnfield would be lit at 9.15pm on the evening of 6th June to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Ian Stokes noted that the problems of antisocial behaviour on the Rec had started with the recent hot weather. There had been comments on social media asking what OTC was going to do about it, he said, but last year when the council had asked for volunteers to act as marshals residents had not supported them. This will be an agenda item at next month’s meeting.
Next Council Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Monday 3rd June at 7pm in the Olney Centre. If you would like to contribute to the Public Participation section at the start of the meeting, or any time the mayor deems appropriate, please contact the Town Clerk,

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