Following the cancellation of the Wentworth Valley Area Assembly meeting on 8th January, a further meeting was held on 15th January at Bramley Parish Hall to discuss the issue of “Democracy” as had been previously planned. At the earlier meeting, the new chairman, Cllr Chris McMahon and vice-chair Cllr Amy Rushforth, put in place as many say unethically and against the constitution, by Rotherham Labour Councillors, called a halt to the meeting amidst cheers and jeering.
The previous chairman Cllr Peter Thirlwall (who had the total support of the Assembly) was told he was out of order when he tried to speak and members of the public were told to be quiet when they tried to ask questions about the election of the new chairman.
The next week, the meeting at Bramley was of a completely different nature from start to finish. Everyone was welcomed by Rob Foulds, a well known council critic and campaigner from Bramley, who clarified the reason for the meeting. A vote was then taken as to who should chair it and Cllr Thirlwall was unanimously voted for.
He suggested that a motion be proposed so that a fair debate take place. The motion read :
“The Wentworth Valley Area Assembly believes that RMBC displays a cavalier attitude to local democracy and pays scant regard to the wishes of the community. RMBC has demonstrated their contempt of members of the Area Assembly by the removal of a popular chairman and their attempt to replace him with someone of little or no community support or political mandate.”
Councillors and members of the public from Maltby, Bramley and Wickersley were asked if they wished to speak. Some believed that RMBC does what it wants regardless of public opinion and that the elected council is a sham of democracy. It was reported that Mr Tim Mumford, head of Legal Services at RMBC, had been contacted by numerous people and that his responses were far from satisfactory or democratic.
A run down was given on how the Area Assemblies came about and how they have developed and a range of views was given on experiences in the past and hopes for the future. There were differing opinions on some issues, such as whether the Area Assemblies should be abolished or not, but throughout, views were aired and discussed in a civilised productive manner. This has been a characteristic of WVAA until recently, when the democratic approach seems to have been abandoned.
After the discussion a vote was taken on the motion, which was passed unanimously.
The future of WVAA and the other Assemblies in Rotherham area is uncertain. What RMBC decide to do, if anything, is anyone’s guess at the moment. Hopefully, the situation can be sorted amicably and more importantly democratically. That is, after all, the system that most of us believe we live in and expect RMBC to demonstrate.