More musings

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:,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.

Ian Grey

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:

Agenda Motion:

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.

Best regards,

Ian Grey


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

Getting in the paper…

I’ve written a letter to the local paper today. It is nothing to do with the election, rather a celebration of the New Pavilion re-opening as “Puccinos”. This is a letter I’ve been meaning to write for some time and has been hold whilst the building work has dragged on and on. The arrival of “Puccinos” will revitalise the east of the town centre in an otherwise static area and the owners are to be commended on such an enterprising venture.

He is the text of the letter; –

I was delighted to see that the new “Puccinos” café/bar has finally opened in the former New Pavilion this week and particularly pleased to be given a chance to see inside the smart new restaurant.

Morlieans of all ages will undoubtedly have very fond memories of the building, whether as a Theatre, a Cinema, a Bingo Hall or even in its last incarnation as an alternative night club.

With a personal interest in both architecture and entertainment history, I have been fascinated by this remarkable survivor for a long time and disappointed that no photos of the interior decoration appear to have been found, despite the determined efforts of Ronnie Barraclough and the late David Atkinson.

I continue to hope that somewhere in Morley, maybe in a shoebox up in a loft, there are some hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Perhaps this letter might trigger a memory….

Now that the building is open to the public again, there is an opportunity to perhaps open it to visitors for a guided tour on heritage weekend (on September 11th/12th) if the owners and local historians are willing. Whilst most of the past has been sadly swept away, the memories of Morley Entertainers live on inside those walls.

When I decided to stand for the By-Election, I had to fill in a couple of forms and received a stack more of them to be going on with. I knew what to expect as I still had the paperwork from the May 2003 Election but it is still a fairly laborious process reading and understanding the paperwork.

Whilst Morley is a Town Council, Town Councils and Parish Councils are interchangeable other than in name, both being “Minor Authorities”. Morley Parish Council declared that it would henceforth become Morley Town Council during 2000 and it came to pass that it was so.

Firstly, I had to persuade two people who lived in the Ward to propose and second me. They then had to sign the form and be clearly identified by their “electoral number” which consists of three letters and a number. The first two letters are MS (for Morley South, the Leeds City Council Ward) and the third letter represents the polling district. There are nine districts in Morley South, lettered MSA to MSJ (missing out MSH for some reason). Elmfield Districts are MSC (1798 voters, to the west) and MSG (1564 voters, to the east) and each district has its own polling station, one at Cross Hall Junior, the other Elmfield Infants. There are actually 3368 voters, six more than shown in Parish paperwork but I have no desire to add them up in the electoral lists.

When being nominated, I am entitled to provide up to six words of description which, if acceptable to the Returning Officer, is printed on the ballot paper. Needless to say, I just chose the word “Independent”, resisting the temptation to prefix “fiercely” &/or suffix “and proud of it!”. Criteria for acceptability mainly relate to possible confusion with registered parties, although offensiveness might also be deemed unacceptable.

I also had to return a consent to nomination form which had to be witnessed by someone but that could be anybody so was actually Mrs. Grey, as she was there….

To qualify for nomination, in simple terms a candidate has to a) be a registered elector in the Parish, &/or b) live in the parish, &/or c) work in the parish, &/or reside within 4.8 kilometres of it. The candidate also has to be over 21, a British/EU/Commonwealth citizen and not disqualified due to bankruptcy or nefarious doings. Another exclusion is paid office under the local authority.

Meanwhile, back to the laminator….

A pleasant distraction

This evening I have managed to do some laminating and choosing some rosettes as well as a Governor meeting, sorting out my mobile and squeezing in a cup of coffee in the new Puccinos. They gave me a quick look in the restaurant bit, it is very smart indeed and I wish them every success. Tomorrow I need to fill in some forms and some more preparation work.

I saw someone I knew outside the Library earlier, they hadn’t seen my leaflet yet but they had received a BNP one.

To look forward let us first look back…

Yesterday I had sore feet, today I have sore hands! I have written a letter to all of the people registered for a postal vote enclosing leaflet two on the basis that they could well return their votes before the second leaflet run next weekend. I also wrote letters to the addresses that we couldn’t get access to enclosing both leaflets. I also did a couple of streets that were overlooked yesterday.

I left a few people off the write-to list where I recognised their names from local politics. If they feel the need to vote against their instincts then I’ll just rely on the door leaflet to sway them rather than wasting a stamp!

I thought about standing for the Town Council last year but my Wife talked me out of it- I was busy enough already and perhaps I should wait until I became an embarassment to my son in his teen years. What has changed this year? Well, retirement from Round Table has released some free time and having met a number of local politicians through her job, Mrs. Grey realises that they are not all bad!

I wrote a letter to the local press in April 2003 which I reprint here.

Dear Sir,

I see that the race is on for the Town Council elections and Labour are first off the blocks with their announcement that they are contesting all 24 seats across the six Wards.

Whilst I have never considered myself political, I went along to observe the full Council in action after the Heritage days last year and would encourage others to do the same- I found it fascinating and surprisingly compelling- I’ve been to every one since.

I’m not a native Morliean, I’m not even a Tyke, I’ve only lived here 10 years but since becoming a Parent I now regard Morley as my home rather than where my house is.

I think the Town Council is a good thing- it is not perfect but it has started to achieve results. Whilst it is admirable that the local Labour Party would like to win all 24 seats a brief glance towards Westminster shows all too clearly the detrimental effect of ineffective opposition- laws rushed through without enough careful consideration and the scourge of spin- style above substance.

I would like Morley Town Council to make decisions based on collaboration rather than the mixture of confrontation and submission that Party Politics demands of its participants. It should also be a “Critical Friend” of Leeds, pointing out the raw deal Morley often gets but then working with Local Government to improve it. That doesn’t need big increases in our local Precept to achieve on a “we know best-tax & spend” basis. It should be Parochial rather than Partisan.

The Town Council will never reach the heights of Local Government as it was before 1974- the Town and Parish models are closer in powers to the Vicar of Dibley than Millennium Square!

How can we all help? By looking at all of the leaflets that come through our letterboxes, reading the papers and trying to reach informed decisions about the prospective candidates & their motives for standing. Do they live or work here? Are they approachable? Do they like the sound of their own voice? Do they have inflated opinions of their own self-importance? Do they have a passion for our town? Having met and talked to many of them I realise they should not all be tarred with the same brush as we disparage our professional politicians- they are ordinary people who want to put something back.

The May 1st elections will be an interesting challenge for National Government. Many of us may decide to vote based on what is going on in Iraq, or how much our April pay packet has gone down after the latest tax grab by Prudence. Some will vote for the BNP candidate, misled by the hysterical media coverage about Asylum Seekers swamping our Ports of entry. Some will vote the same as their parents did, looking for the little symbol that they are comfortable with, whether Rose or Beacon.

Lots of us will be totally indifferent and not bother voting at all- a sure sign that Party Politics is morally bankrupt.

As to myself? I’ll be brandishing the pencil on May 1st then watching the count on May 2nd. I can’t second-guess the outcome but whatever happens it will be fascinating to be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world- our own real-life soap opera!

Having re-read the letter, it still rings true and I stand by my words. Not a lot has changed in the big scheme of things, although locally the “Morley Borough Independents” gave Labour a big shock last month and Leeds City Council is now in “NO OVERALL CONTROL”.

Hitting the streets…

A small band of helpers assembled at Hembrigg car park to start the process of leaflet dropping at the unearthly hour of 7am. (Well unearthly for a weekend!). I don’t envy postmen at all- difficult gates, awkward letterboxes, frenzied dogs….

75% of the ward now leafleted with the promise of the remainder by a couple of helpers who were working today. Some will need to be posted, some sheltered housing in the Britannia Road area has no access. It is strange to see familiar buildings from unfamiliar perspectives on foot rather than trundling past.

One lady said mine was her first leaflet & no sign of any signage by the “opposition” yet. Tonight will be spent mostly addressing envelopes….