Last night I had to fill in a couple of forms for the election office. The first one was to nominate “polling agents” who are entitled to enter the polling station, check for nefarious goings on and talk to the staff there. Great lengths were made to distinguish them from “Tellers”, who appear to have no particular legitimacy other than precedent. Tellers are the people who loiter around outside the polling station and check you off after you have voted. Their main purpose seems to be so that the political parties can go and knock on the doors late in the day if there seems to be a wave of apathy in a particular stronghold area.
I understand that the political parties can get hold of the records of which electors have actually voted after an election, but not, of course, which candidate they voted for (Although the left-leaning journalist Polly Toynbee wrote a recent article in the Grauniad decrying how voting was too good for many of the electorate and there was a subtle inference that they could find out who someone had voted for, link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1231150,00.html). I wonder if a £10 investment in a Data Protection Act search might yield enlightening results?
The second form was to nominate people to attend the count at Morley Town Hall. Only three can attend on this particular occasion, namely the candidate, the candidate’s guest (Mrs. Grey of course) and a “counting agent”, i.e. someone else to scrutinise proceedings and make sure it is fair and above board. The count takes place at 9pm on the 22nd, i.e. straight after the polls close. Realistically it is unlikely to take more than an hour as with probably only 1500 or so ballot papers to count (based on a 25% turnout across Elmfield and Central Wards) & only one candidate to select on each paper, it is simply a case of sort and count.
With a maximum of 18 observers and presumably a handful of staff, it is likely to rattle around the Alexandra Hall so might be held in the smaller Morliean Hall below (indeed that might be the reason for capping counting agents). I don’t know whether both Wards will be counted at the same time, if not then Central will be done first as alphabetism prevails.
I am aware that I need to maximise my profile within Morley as I am up against two candidates who have the might of a national party political machine behind them. There are three more editions of the local papers to come, which might spring a few surprises. Blatant electioneering is not my style and I have rebuffed suggestions of staged photos around contrived local issues as I am sure that Morley has had quite enough of that!
Thinking laterally, I composed another letter to the Morley Obtiser, regarding something last week that I think has some mileage so here is the pre-story to set the scene. On Tuesday night I went to the regular monthly meeting of the Morley Civic Society, which is generally held in the Town Hall on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:30pm (a much more civilised time than 7pm for those of us with children). I was surprised that there were only two others there, Jill Haigh and Colin Crabtree. Two things had depressed the numbers, frantic preparations for Morley in Bloom (the summer judging actually took place today) and a Morley Forward meeting downstairs that Colin had excused himself from in order to join us.
Morley Forward has been the subject of much debate within the Town Council as the local Labour Party insists on calling some of their leaflets Morley Forward as well. (It has now been renamed something like the Morley Town Centre Partnership which isn’t as snappy but it is much clearer what it is about).
Once we had sorted out business with the Civic Society, Colin said he would rejoin the meeting downstairs and I asked if I was able to join it as an observer. As far as he knew it wasn’t a problem so I entered quietly, grabbed a chair and sat down behind some people near the door. The room was laid out with long tables arranged in a big rectangle and I quickly realised that I was actually sitting behind the Chairman so I rapidly moved off to one side.
Gazing round the room, I realised that I immediately recognised about half of them as local Councillors and attendees of the Town Council. Of the others, perhaps half again were familiar from other meetings & I was able to piece together who some of the others were as the meeting progressed. I was able to borrow meeting paperwork in order to fill in some of the gaps on the topics being discussed.
Later on, Alan Gray from the Rugby club was talking about Morley Carnival in the old days and passed the comment that choosing dates for events was difficult as no one really knew what else was going on. This struck a chord with me as every year we dither over when to hold our school gala as we try to not let it clash with nearby schools and of course they are also dithering as well. I am also aware that the “What’s on” in the local papers is sometimes sadly lacking being based on a business rather than a community approach.
There was talk about how having a Town Manager would resolve that sort of thing but I suspect we are a long way away from having one. Then it struck me, we have a Town Clerk (& assistant) in the Town Council office every day covering at least the mornings, and so the office could readily look after the minor admin of a task.
I put my hand up & was eventually invited to speak. I expressed my idea to the meeting, which, was received politely & with a few nods round the room but the next person talked on another topic and the meeting moved on.
I realised yesterday that good ideas start as tiny sparks but sometimes you have to fan the embers for the flames to take hold. My letter picks up the story…
Letter to the Editor
Recently, I sat in on the latter stages of a meeting of what used to be known as “Morley Forward” in the Morliean Hall. I didn’t set out intending to go there but as a consequence the regular Civic Society meeting upstairs was much depleted in numbers & I was curious to see what went on.
One theme emerged later in the meeting that I immediately related to; – the lack of co-ordination between the various community groups so that sometimes conflicting events ended up on the same day. Whilst the Town Council keeps a diary for civic occasions, no such scheme exists for other events beyond “What’s on” in the Morley Papers.
I did suggest to the meeting that a second diary kept in the Morley Town Council office would be of considerable benefit to the community and well worth the small cost and time involved. Of course, there is often a big gap between a bright idea being suggested and anything actually happening so I have decided to move things along.
I have sounded out the idea in principle with the Town Clerk who had no immediate objections. I have now written to the Chairman of the Community Development Committee asking that the idea be given due consideration at their next meeting.
Of course, there are practical aspects to such a scheme but I’m sure that with a clear set of guidelines and a spirit of co-operation we could enjoy future events with dates chosen in full knowledge of what else is going on in Morley.
Here is the text of the letter written to Cllr. Joe Tetley, Chairman of Community Development and Regeneration. That is enough blogging for today!
Dear Cllr Tetley,
You may recall my suggesting the Town Clerk keeps a Community Diary on behalf of the town at the recent meeting of what used to be “Morley Forward”.
I have given this idea further thought and also sounded out the Town Clerk to see if there were any immediate obstacles to such a scheme. On that basis I wish to make the following suggestion to your Committee for due consideration (& hopefully acceptance & implementation).
My initial thoughts on such a scheme are as follows:
That the Town Clerk keeps a Diary for the recording of community activities and makes available the information on date availability to interested community groups on request.
I enclose some first draft guidelines overleaf that I hope may be a useful starting point for the implementation of such a scheme.
COMMUNITY DIARY SCHEME
Morley Town Council maintains a community events diary for the benefit of event organisers when choosing suitable dates. In order for it to work well, the following guidelines should be observed: –
Guidelines for the community groups:
· Events can be recorded in the Community diary on request, on a tentative, provisional or confirmed basis.
· Tentative means that more than one entry may exist in the diary and plans are preliminary. Provisional means there is only one main entry & the event planning is well advanced but subject to confirmation. Confirmed means that the event is booked and highly unlikely to change.
· Dates recorded are not bookings or reservations and are therefore not specifically reserved by inclusion. Any event may be held on any date regardless of diary entries. However good practice is to check the diary and give due consideration to potentially conflicting events.
· On recording a date, a name and contact details must be provided and will be made available to others if requested.
· The diary is open to inspection during normal office hours in person or via telephone/fax/letter/email enquiry.
· It is the responsibility of the Community Group to keep the Town Clerk informed of changes or cancellation. Morley Town Council provides this service for the benefit of the Community, however it will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions, however caused.
· There is no obligation on the Town Council to publish contents of the diary to any third party.
Guidelines for the Town Council Office
· A process needs to be developed that only uses one repository, whether paper based or on Computer. The simplest way would be a large diary a different colour to the Civic diary.
· Provide information on diary contents to callers on request.
· Where an entry is requested, record the name of the event, the community group involved and contact details, along with the date of the request and a sequence number. Events should be categorised as tentative, provisional or confirmed as described above.
· Where multiple dates are requested for tentative events, ensure each date is cross-referenced so that when made provisional or confirmed, the other dates can be noted as being released.
· It needs to be made clear that the diary is not a reservation system and it is first come, first served for the recording of entries.
· There is no restriction upon the recording future dates, in which case a list may need to be kept until availability of paper based diaries.
Draft guidelines by Ian Grey, 13/7/2004