Councillor excluded from meeting during Shaftesbury branding talks

Councillor excluded from meeting during Shaftesbury branding talks

A COUNCILLOR who called several of his fellow members “a disgrace” was excluded from a meeting earlier this week, as plans were discussed for managing the identity of Shaftesbury.

It was heard during an online Shaftesbury Town Council meeting on Tuesday that two contractors, titled ‘Company A’ and ‘Company E’, should be selected to manage the identity and digital marketing of the town.

It would be up to these organisations, Company A for town branding and Company E for digital marketing, to develop the identity of Shaftesbury through tourism plans, a website, logo and other promotional materials, to entice more visitors to the area.

Business manager Brie Logan, author of the report submitted to the council, said the ‘visitor experience’ has been developed over the last year, and the appointment of contractors was “critical to develop the tourism for Shaftesbury”.

She added: “[This is] our opportunity to put Shaftesbury on the map and to really inspire people to want to come and visit the town.”

The proposal was met with mixed reactions from councillors.

Majority of the councillors welcomed the selection of contractors, put forward by the Recreation, Open Spaces and Environment committee, with Councillor Piers Brown adding this was a “great opportunity” with a “fantastic and innovative approach to marketing”.

He said: “This is a year-and-a-half-long project coming to its fruition now but it really could not have come at a more important time for the sector.”

However, Cllr Peter Yeo argued there was a “failure of democracy”, as the ‘Company A’ item was pushed straight to a vote without debate and further questions.

He interrupted Cllr Brown and said he was “deliberately wasting time”, which resulted in Cllr Matthew Welch later requesting his exclusion.

As six of the councillors voted in favour of Cllr Yeo’s exit from the meeting, he called them each “a disgrace” and said the authority was “failing the citizens of Shaftesbury”.

Also not in favour of the proposals was Cllr Karen Tippins who said she had not been provided with enough information or the relevant documents in the lead up to the meeting, adding: “How can I vote on a company that I have not seen the branding for?”

She later asked the business manager: “I would like to know who went to the [previous] presentation and why we haven’t seen the supplier details, I’d like that to be answered by officers. I’m a councillor, how can I scrutinise what you guys are doing.

“I have been excluded and I think that is disgusting.”

In response Brie said that “no councillor was invited” as such, but there was an agreed panel that decided on the contractors.

Cllr Tippins said she had requested full information regarding the branding prior to the full council meeting, but town clerk Claire Commons said she had not seen the email before signing off for the day.

In response to previous interruptions and how the comments of Cllrs Tippins and Brown were dealt with by chairman Tim Cook earlier in the meeting, Cllr Jeanne Loader said: “Can I ask why Cllr Tippins wasn’t allowed to make a comment just now and Cllr Brown was.

“It was blatant.”

Cllr Cook responded that it was not yet Cllr Tippins’ turn, as he went round to each councillor for comments on the digital marketing item.

By the end of the meeting, Companies A and E were selected as the preferred contractors, and it was approved that £10,500 would be allocated to deliver a one-year digital marketing plan, with £2,500 withdrawn from general reserves.

In the report it said that both companies had demonstrated they are “professional and forward-thinking”, with Company A “flexible in [its] approach to manage additional services as the project develops, including navigational signage and town tourism guide”.

Company E’s social media coverage would be “significantly higher and more cost effective”.

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