• Matthew Brennan

Conservatives backtrack over fireworks vote

In a move that shocked no-one, Conservative Councillors have backtracked over their vote that seemingly banned Dunstable Town Council from ever holding a Fireworks night again.


On the morning of September 8th, independent Councillor John Gurney was approached and interviewed on BBC 3 counties radio. He was asked questions on the subject and explained to the listeners of the show that the vote was made to never again hold a Dunstable Fireworks Night.


Cut to, the afternoon of the same day and Chief Executive of Dunstable Town Council David Ashlee had requested to appear on BBC 3CR and was on the Roberto Perrone show to clarify the situation. Why this clarification wasn't made by the current Town Mayor and head of the Council, Gloria Martin, who was one of Conservative Councillors who voted to never hold a Fireworks night again; or better yet, Chair of the committee and previous Mayor, Conservative Councillor Peter Hollick, I don't know. Perhaps so that they could save face? Was David's appearance on BBC3CR at the request of these councillors? Or perhaps they were unaware of David's actions. I have asked the question of my fellow councillors and learned that there was "a discussion" between David and Conservative Councillor Peter Hollick prior to the radio interview, but when questioned if David was instructed to reiterate the conservative’s viewpoint on the vote Councillor Hollick did not answer the question.


You can hear the interviews online here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09sylwr


In the interview, David contradicts Councillor Gurney and states that the vote wasn't to never have it again and that if they want to, the council can revisit the subject. This interpretation of the meeting was echoed by another councillor present at the meeting. This isn't the first time there have been issues over what has been said in meetings. I was witness to the meeting where the vote was proposed by the chair that Fireworks never be held again. John Gurney was a member of the committee and states the same, that the vote was worded to be final. Luckily there is an answer.


In October 2019, when I first discovered that there was an issue between what was said in meetings and what was recorded in minutes, I formally requested that the council start recording their meetings. That first request seemed to disappear into the woodwork. It was only in February this year when an interpretation issue of what was said in a meeting led me to call once again for the council to start recording meetings.


Here we are in September and the council have had video equipment fitted to the council chambers. This round of committee meetings was due to be a test. The council planned to record the meeting in question and upload the video to a YouTube channel that only the council could view so that it could iron out all kinks before going fully live with the recording/live streaming system in November.


So, the meeting in question was recorded and is currently waiting to be watched. All that needs to happen is for the link to be shared and we will know whether councillors are mistaken or trying to change a democratic vote. If the video shows that the vote did not state "not to hold fireworks ever again" then Cllr John Gurney and I are wrong. However, if it does say that then the implications are far reaching.


If that was indeed the vote and the senior Conservative Councillors have tried to change the meaning of it, requesting that the Chief Executive go onto Live radio and pronounce it to the people of Dunstable. That sounds like a really bad thing to do. Ultimately what is the point of a council is when a vote is made, they change what they voted for. I don't know if that's even legal.


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