Watching the shenanigans of Handforth Parish Council last week on YouTube was at first glance potentially comical but ultimately rather sad. Of course, it was remarkable to watch grown adults descend into a ‘Lord of the Flies’ type farce, endlessly arguing and point-scoring – and at no point considering the demands of their community, making any decisions or seemingly doing anything of any value! I’m also sure that the editing of an hour and a half meeting down to 18 minutes of social media frenzy for the TikTok generation resulted in glib soundbites that lost some of the actual point of the meeting. But what was particularly sad about it for me was the brush that the video paints of local democracy; the most important level of democracy of all. Why? Because the members voted onto your Town Council are your friends, your neighbours and so make decisions that directly affect you. The money raised by Town Council’s is spent ENTIRELY in their community; not on weapons, not on prisons, not on anything that isn’t in the locality. So for people to (a) not understand the impact of a dysfunctional Town Council and (b) not want to become engaged is sad and a concern.
So how can you become involved more in Town Council decision making? Well, it so happens that on 6 May, there are local elections being held to fill 4 vacancies we have on our Town Council. Anyone who is a resident of the town can put themselves forward; just speak to any incumbent Councillor (all our details are on our website at www.sheptonmallet-tc.gov.uk) about what it involves. As the new financial year approaches, Councillors are establishing priorities we want to focus on from our Town Plan (search online for ‘Shepton Mallet Town Plan’). We need more Councillors to take a proactive approach to getting things done: so have a look at the plan and see whether you think you could contribute. And it’s not limited to that: we’re open to new suggestions, if you have other great ideas you’ve seen work elsewhere. Indeed, as long as a Town Council operates within the general rule of law, the only two things it can’t do is form a militia or introduce new forms of taxes. You’ll be pleased to know neither of these feature in our Town Plan!
Have a safe week.
Matt Harrison, Chairperson
Shepton Mallet Town Council