Anger as mayor scraps committee that he says “didn’t do a lot”

Mayor Tom Wootton
Mayor Tom Wootton. Image: Bedford Borough Council

When asked why he had scrapped Bedford Borough Council’s Rural Affairs Committee, Bedford’s mayor said it was a meeting that “floated about and didn’t do a lot”.

The Rural Affairs Committee considered and determined applications for rural grants, and advised the Executive on matters affecting the borough’s rural area.

Cllr Jonathan Abbott (LibDem, Clapham & Oakley) asked the mayor during last week’s Full Council Meeting (12 July) why he had decided to abolish it.

“[It] had an important function in giving a larger voice to rural issues and assessing the rural grant schemes applications,” he said.

“Can [you] explain why one of [your] first decisions has been to abolish this important committee, particularly when you did talk about how the rural areas were going to be more important to you,” he asked.

Bedford mayor, Tom Wootton, replied that the rural areas are “more important”.

“But I really didn’t understand that having been a rural member for all these years I never got an invite to that committee, ever,” he said.

“So it’s just one of those committees that floated about and didn’t do a lot, and I really feel that the time is better spent elsewhere.”

Cllr Abbott said: “This was a cross-party committee and rural wards are not just represented by Conservative councillors, they’re represented by Liberal Democrats and Independents as well.

“How are the views in these wards going to be gained,” he asked.

“Are these views actually not important to you because they haven’t elected Conservative members,” he added.

Mayor Wootton said: “Well, having been a rural councillor all these years and not getting to this committee and not having my views known throughout that committee, and not being able to go to that committee and not knowing when it was on.

“I really feel that it met so infrequently as well, and for many years it didn’t seem to meet at all.

“I just thought it was not something that we could carry on with, but there we go, I might even reconsider,” he said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter