Busybody nonsense update

Charles 12 Comments

A quick update on the attempt by Christopher Harris to persuade Woodstock council to abandon its requirement that  ‘all interments [of ashes] … must be arranged by an approved professional firm’

We foregathered in the council chamber. Green baize-covered table, mace thereon, oil portraits of worthies from various lost ages, Union Jack, evening sunlight streaming in, mayor with a Funeralworld capo’s chain, framed photo of the Annigoni portrait of the queen, noble fireplace, cabinet full of pewter plates — in short, a scene from Dad’s Army. Proceedings began with no preliminary welcome from the mayor and no explanation of the democratic process as it operated in this chamber. Half the council members sat with their bloody backs to us. It was the sort of event that makes tyranny look terribly attractive. 

Chris spoke very well in the teeth of a stentorian countdown from the mayor – “One more minute.” If the councillors listened they did so in a way different from you and me. They then voted to go into confidential session to discuss it all… and that was that. No news of a decision has come through today. We are none the wiser. 


  1. Charles

    It wouldn’t. Councils are very good at going into closed session when it suits them. Dressing as an undertaker will have seen to that. Why on earth dress as a ‘prat in a hat’ at a council meeting?

        1. Charles

          It’s not for me to speak for him, Kingfisher, but I do know that he was angry that he had been spoken to, as he reckoned, rudely when he was making enquiries about the lawfulness of the regulation. Whether or not he made the councillors cross is not influential: the matter is forensic — ie, not a matter of yes or no but right or wrong.

          1. Charles

            I disagree. Had he not antagonised them by dressing up, they may not have gone into closed session, so you may have had a more productive evening and an answer. Just saying.

          1. Charles

            I guess it’s that ‘class’ word creeping in again. There will be those who think it’s incredibly clever, witty and funny to dress up in top hat and tails at a council meeting. And those who don’t.

  2. Charles

    This is modern Britain! Secrecy still rules.

    1998 – I was (very briefly) a County councillor. Thinking I should call in to introduce myself to my local Parish council – I decided to attend one of their meetings. On arrival I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only member of the public who had bothered to turn up. A couple of them knew who I was – my face had appeared in the local press and of course, on my election guff. To my amazement – they left me watching while they discussed some such vital issue for an hour or more – before telling me they had no intention of letting me speak or address them because I was not entitled to. I thought it bizarre and left slightly agog.

    Parish councils – the very best of British eccentricity and pompousness!

  3. Charles

    Its all very depressing.
    I do take Kingfisher’s point. Yes, the dressing up makes a point, but also starts off procedings with the clear understanding that you think they’re behaving like idiots….not likely to put you in a good position. Infuriating as it is, sometimes your best bet is to play the game…even if its a stupid game. Start off by giving the impression that you think they can’t possibly be saying something that stupid so this is obviously a silly mistake that can be easily sorted out. In my experience, jobsworths often respond quite well to that.
    Having said that, in this case I get the distinct impression that it would have made no difference.
    What I would be doing now, I think, is taking advice on the legal situation and deciding exactly how far I was prepared to push this. It may start to get expensive. Options (possibly)…pursue it through the courts or accept their decision (note I am making an assumption here), accept David Holmes’ kind offer and then kick up the mother and father of all fuss in the press. Theatrical gestures more than appropriate in this context 🙂

  4. Charles
    CH ak 'The Prat In The Hat'

    Dear All

    Thank you for your interests in this. Special thanks to both Charles ‘the Sheriff’ and the erudite John Bradfield.

    My theatrics had no effect on the course of Tuesday evening’s Meeting. The Council’s Agenda clearly states that the Councillors were going to exclude both Public and Press from the discussions, and no vote ended up being taken. One Councillor did state, on record, that it appeared that this matter had been of embarrassment to the Council and he felt there was no need to hold all of the discussions ‘in Confidential’. However, the Mayor was resolute in stating that the discussions would include financial/personnel matters which are legitimate reasons under the ‘Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act (1960), though he didn’t name the Act.
    He also denied there had been any ’embarrassment’ to the Council.
    Bizarrely he had already told one journalist the day before what the Council was going to do…seemingly that bit wasn’t up for discussion as it already been decided. It does make me wonder why that decision couldn’t have been announced at the Meeting…but it wasn’t.

    To date there has been no apology from the Council for the way they have treated my family on this matter, only an ‘apology for any confusion’ pertaining to the matter of whether I, as a non-resident and non-elector, should be allowed to speak. The Mayor thought incorrectly he had unilateral right to cast his discretion and he didn’t. The local Assoc of Local Councils made this quite clear to him over a week ago.

    Story hopefully to appear in local papers tomorrow (just been ‘phoned (again) by journalist from Oxford Mail, and hopefully it will go to press then (It will be on the ‘thisisoxfordshire’ website. My family opted not to provide the paper with a photo of my father, for reasons which I trust you can all appreciate.

    The Council is currently seeking a new Town Councillor…



  5. Charles

    Go4it! Only when these pompous people are challenged will they moderate their behaviour.

    You will make an excellent parish councillor – shoot from the hip at every meeting – it’s exactly what these bodies (excuse the pun) need.

  6. Charles

    i just thought I would update the situation about Woodstock Town Council.
    Last year I exposed them as the parish council (town council is merely a subset of a parish council) who had gone into confidential session more often than any other in Oxfordshire. Out of 41 months they had excluded the public and press on 39 occasions. They started to exclude by quoting the Local Govt Act (1972) and when they tried, I refused to budge, as it was an Act which applies to unitary; district, borough, and county councils only: not parish/town.
    The council remains mostly comprised of buffoons.

    For those who criticised me for dressing up, it really really would have made no difference. Ignorance and arrogance are unaffected by top hats and tails.

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