Strange Happening at the June Parish Council Meeting

Representatives of Hook Action Against Overdevelopment have not attended Hook Parish Council meetings since the onset of Covid-19. In reality there has been no real need to do so with the Hart Local Plan in place. We’re told that there has been little, if any, public attendance at all over this whole period, when meetings were virtual or partly virtual a lot of the time.

HAAO members attended the Parish Council meeting on 1st June 2022 having also attended a meeting of the North East Hook Community Project Committee (NEHCPC) on 30th May. The NEHCPC is managing the development of plans for a sports pavilion at North East Hook where sports pitches have been developed next to the new housing.

We will describe the pavilion plans in a separate article and mailings, but there was a very strange discussion at the Parish Council meeting on 1st June related to this committee. It appears that at the previous full Parish Council meeting in early June, when committee chairmanships for the year were decided, Councillor Jane Worlock was elected chair of the NEHCPC committee. But apparently in the days following, some Parish Councillors wrote to the clerk of the council calling for this vote to be re-run at the next meeting. As with most councils, it is prohibited under their standing orders to have a vote on the same matter within 6 months of a previous vote on the item, unless a special motion is brought to council at the request of at least 2 councillors. This is to allow for a new vote in exceptional circumstances and the implication is that the grounds for such a re-run need to be established, rather than it just being “on demand” as to allow that would be an abuse of process undermining all decision making.

The meeting agenda for June provided no explanation of any special circumstances that would require a new vote, but the alleged grounds were provided verbally by the three Parish Councillors who had called for the special motion.

  • Councillor Paul Kinge said that the votes did not add up, because the vote result was 5-4 and there were 10 councillors eligible to vote.
  • Councillor Jacqui Nabbs said that she did not realise she was eligible to vote on the matter. This would explain why the vote total was 9 and not 10.
  • Councillor Fergus Kirkham said that he was concerned that his vote may have been attributed to the wrong candidate. The other candidate for chair of the committee being Councillor Verd Nabbs, who is also vice-chair of the Parish Council and incidentally was chairing the meeting on 1st June in the absence of chair Councillor Rob Cowell.

A councillor who was at the meeting in June for the original vote told us that the vote was unexceptional and was not questioned by anyone on the night. They said that there was no concern expressed that only 9 councillors had voted and the tally taken was double-checked by the clerk before proceedings moved on. The council’s standing orders do not state precisely what grounds there must be for a special motion to be brought to re-run a vote, but the grounds cited above don’t strike us as even close to being adequate. A failure by a councillor to vote is not exceptional. Perhaps the clerk could have explicitly asked for any abstentions, but all of the votes at the June meeting were said to have been taken in the same way. A councillor expressing concern that their vote may have been misattributed is also no grounds for a re-run, unless there is some evidence that this was the case but nobody thought there was an issue on the night of the vote. If a ‘concern’ by a councillor that their vote ‘may’ have been misattributed were grounds to re-run a vote, then any vote could be re-run on demand using such a claim and therefore counter to the premise that re-votes are only when absolutely necessary.

In the end, the special motion was deferred to the next meeting in July, because as Councillor Worlock pointed out, while there was a demand for a special motion to be brought, there was no motion placed on the agenda that could be moved, seconded and put to the vote, so under the council’s standing orders the motion was not a valid one.

As stated at the outset, HAAO representatives attended the first NEHCPC meeting with Councillor Worlock as chair on 30th May. Her chairmanship of the meeting was described by those also at the meeting as “professional” and “exemplary” with all business and requests for public speaking handled to the satisfaction of both public and committee members. So it really isn’t clear why some councillors are trying to have the chair of this committee replaced in such an unusual fashion.

We will attend the July Parish Council meeting and let you know what transpires.