Villagers were expecting a public meeting in Bottesford to focus on a hefty precept rise – but it ended up centring on a threat to younger generations.
Former parish councillor Barbara Hart called the meeting at the village cricket club on Friday evening after residents brought to her their concerns over a 116 per cent rise in the parish precept in just two years. The venue was full, with around 80 people turning out to debate the issues.
However, the precept was barely discussed and instead the closure of the village youth club that very day and the lack of promised work to play areas took centre-stage.
Amanda Bishop, secretary of Bottesford Youth Club, told the meeting – attended by just four of the parish’s eight councillors – that the youth club had been forced to shut down as it had been pushed away from its room in the Old School.
Despite having hold of paperwork which stated the club has a lease on the room until at least 2017, parish councillors have chosen to use the room primarily as the parish office.
She said this left the club – which has over 100 members – with no option but to close until alternative premises can be found.
Mrs Bishop referred to a previous meeting where an action plan had been agreed between the two parties, which was later shunned by councillors.
Parish council chairman Dermot Daly responded, saying the space should be shared and would also be rented out for children’s parties and commercial events where appropriate.
As the talks steered towards the parish precept – which has risen with no consultation with villagers – the debate began to get heated.
Colin Love, a former parish councillor, accused the councillors of “fiefdom” and pointed out that the majority of the council is co-opted and as such is making these decisions without democracy and without gauging the opinion of villagers. He pointed out that other councils, including Leicestershire County and Melton Borough, were freezing their precept and that Bottesford should do the same.
Nearing the end of the meeting on Friday, attention was drawn to the resignation of parish council clerk Barbara Taylor, who one villager claimed was forced out by parish councillors.
This was denied, with Coun Daly saying she had retired from her post.
A lack of progress on the Bottesford Neighbourhood Plan was brought up, although councillors gave little in answer as to where they were with it.
Coun Gordon Alistair Raper reminded those gathered that they are volunteers and do what they can for the village when they can.
Throughout the public meeting, chairman Ron Simpson highlighted restrictions parish councils face and their statutory obligations.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Love said he felt questions put before the parish councillors – made up of Coun Daly, Coun Rpaer, Anne Ablewhite and Lynn Busby – had barely been answered.