ONE Haverhill meetings should be open to the public and members need the ‘stamina and commitment’ to deal with public criticism, according to the town council.
At Tuesday’s (September 24) Haverhill Town Council meeting at the arts centre town clerk Will Austin said it had been suggested to him that he should not vote on the board matters due to be being a council employee rather than councillor, but the town councillors rejected this and instead reiterated their desire to see the board meetings opened to the public.
ONE Haverhill is a pilot scheme umbrella group of different community organisations setting a community budget for the town and aspiring to improve youth provision and opportunities.
Only six of more than 20 board members are elected, and the board does not allow the public to attend meetings despite having a taxpayer-funded £110,000 youth budget – of which £80,000 has already been spent – and hiring Karen Chapple as a youth skills manager on an annual salary of £28,000.
ONE Haverhill has already been criticised for its secrecy by the town council, which has three members on its board (Mr Austin and labour Cllrs Ernie Goodies and mayor Cllr Roger André), but it was Suffolk County Cllr Tony Brown who called for the group to be open at its board meeting.
At Tuesday’s (24) meeting, deputy mayor Cllr Maureen Byrne said: “ONE Haverhill should be open to the public.
“I do not believe in corridor enclosed meetings of this sort, particularly when we have people making decisions that are not elected on behalf of Haverhill and I don’t know why it has never been open to the public.
“There is some concern that the volunteers on ONE Haverhill could be criticised, yet we here are all volunteers and are criticised daily, and you either have the stamina and the commitment to deal with that or you have not.
“If Will were to lose his vote then we’ve lost the vote of someone who has the best interests of Haverhill at heart and a golden opportunity.”
Cllr Clive Turner said: “We want transparency about what is being decided about what happens in Haverhill.”
Cllr Betty McLatchy asked who chooses the ONE Haverhill board, to which Mr Austin replied: “The board itself decides who can be on the board.”
Mr Austin explained ONE Haverhill’s concerns about allowing the public in were due to members being unaccustomed to speaking in front of the public and facing public criticism, and also to the public hearing sensitive information about finances.
“Their view is that you (the council) know what it’s like and are used to public scrutiny, but they’re not,” he said.
Cllr Ernie Goody said worries about the public hearing sensitive information was no excuse as they could be excluded when such discussion occur, as happens with the council.
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, September 26) Echo.