Is top-up funding for CCTV a misuse of public funds?
"What matters to you in the Marlborough area" was the title of the Area Board meeting in the town hall last Monday, but what the large turn-out was treated to was a blatant display of rigged voting in order to extract Wiltshire council tax payers community affairs money for the town's ill-judged CCTV system.
There we were listening to all the worthy requests for Wiltshire Council grants for groups such as the local bowls club, Ramsbury tennis club and ARK, when up pops a request for £5,000 from the town's Chamber of Commerce for a grant towards the CCTV system.
This is the same system that so controversially was awarded £25,000 funding by the town council against a background of a ballot that was open to multiple voting and paid for with an incredible 15.5% hike in the local precept.
Despite the Chamber's man putting words in the mouth of the Police about how good the CCTV would be, the meeting was still unimpressed that a funding pot designed to assist community matters was to be used for such blatant commercial ends - and wasn't the town council paying for it anyway?
The meeting voted 22 against and some 18 for on a show of hands. That should have been the end of it in a democratic society but no, the chairperson then overruled this result and declared a ballot of the top table (3 voters). It was clear they were all worried the funding would not be approved, so the chairperson abstained and the two other people on the table voted for the funding.
Motion carried. Job done and another £5K into the black hole under the heading 'the town's pet projects'.
It is little wonder that the residents of Marlborough have so little confidence in their local government when we are subjected to a farce that would have done the Marlborough Players proud.
We have become accustomed to reading about the town councillors infatuation with glass houses and baubles, but it is clear the bubble they live in owes nothing to how the rest of us live our lives in Marlborough. Council tax now represents the largest domestic bill in most households and represents so little value to the individual. When the mechanism behind it shows such obviously undemocratic workings and susceptibility to a manipulative Chamber of Commerce.
This funding should be blocked and meanwhile we despair at what other bungles and disasters are awaiting public revelation?
Ed note: It has always been the case that the only people with votes on the award of grants at Area Board meetings are the elected Wiltshire Councillors. Any votes taken of those present are purely a test of their views which may or may not help Councillors decide how to vote.