Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Council Meeting - Hay Together

The first item on the agenda last night was a presentation from Hay Together. There's been quite a bit of confusion about what Hay Together actually does, and what it is, and this was an attempt to clear things up.
One of the prejudices against Hay Together, voiced by several of the councillors last month, was that it is just Plan B rebranded, and since they disagreed with Plan B, they disagreed in principle with Hay Together without finding out any more about it. Rodney Mace was speaking on behalf of Hay Together, and he explained very carefully that Hay Together is NOT Plan B. In fact, Hay Together came out of a meeting called by Gareth Ratcliff as an attempt to heal the divisions in Hay caused by the Plan B campaign against a supermarket. It was also influenced by the passing of the Localism Act 2011(which applies to England, but still has useful things to think about for Wales) and a book by Jesse Norman called The Big Society. Some individuals who were part of Plan B are now part of Hay Together, but that doesn't mean that Hay Together is the same organisation as Plan B. I attended those first meetings, and reported on them, and those reports can be found easily by clicking on the "Hay Together" tag at the end of this post.
Another prejudice against Hay Together has been that they took over the volunteer services from Community Support, as if they were responsible for Community Support closing down and Sandra Havard losing her job. In fact, Rodney explained that Community Support had closed down, and then PAVO approached Hay Together to ask them if they would take on volunteer services for Hay. They did not put themselves forward to do it, and they have started from scratch again, though some of the volunteers who worked with Community Support now work with Hay Together.
Rodney said that they now have an office at the Castle, a community noticeboard, and a little covered area with a huge map of Hay on the Cobbles at the Castle. They have attended meetings about the Local Development Plan, and they have been trying to put together a community plan for Hay, in collaboration with as many other local groups as possible. They've also been involved in meetings about the Hay Sustainable Tourism plan. They are looking at ideas for local car sharing and bulk purchasing of oil and gas, which would make it cheaper for group members, and they are campaigning for super-fast broadband to come to Hay. They also support the Affordable Housing group and Totally Locally. They would like members of the Council to attend their meetings, and to have closer links with the Council - and Rodney stressed that they have no intention of trying to take over the functions of the Council. Several councillors pointed out that they have been elected by the people of Hay, and are the statutory body for Hay, while Hay Together's committee has not been elected by the people of Hay as a whole.
Rodney also said that the good thing about a community organisation like Hay Together is that it can bring together the different statutory bodies for the area so that they can work together for the common good - for instance, getting Powys and Herefordshire County Councils and the Brecon Beacons National Park talking to each other.
Steve Like brought up the issue of openness - he had written an email to Hay Together asking for minutes of their meetings and enquiring about members of Hay Together, and was refused that information. Rodney said that he would refuse any private email on the grounds of Data Protection and confidentiality, but it would be a different matter if the Town Clerk wrote to him in an official capacity. Ellie Spencer pointed out that the Council has been invited to attend meetings (in which case they would get minutes of the meetings) several times, but with no interest on the part of councillors.
There was also a problem with the Hay Together website, which is apparently displaying incorrect information about the last Council election, even after Hay Together were informed of this - though the Brecon and Radnor Express published the same figures, and also failed to give a correction when written to.
Gareth Ratcliff said that his hope was that every local group would get involved with Hay Together, and Rob Golesworthy said that he could see a future where the Council and Hay Together worked together, as long as everyone remembered that the Council were elected.

1 comment:

Mark Hainge said...

Maybe the Town Council and Hay Together could try working together on an issue that isn't contentious, and that everyone can agree is needed - such as keeping the public loos open in Hay? That would allow each group to see that the other has the interests of the community at heart, while coordinating their respective efforts to bring about useful change.

And if they succeed, that will lay the foundations for more productive cooperation in future. This has to be better than the sniping and bickering that has threatened to characterise relations between the Council and Hay Together up to now.