Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Our Lazy Parish Councillors woke up yesterday morning to find this in their email. 

15 August 2017
To Hemingbrough Parish Council and the Clerk to the Council


Would you buy a Pig in a Poke?

“An item sold without the buyer knowing its true nature or value,
particularly when buying without inspecting the item beforehand.”

Would you buy a Pig in a Poke for one pound?  Would you be suspicious of a parcel of land for a quid?  A private Company is entitled to buy as many such Pigs as it chooses, at its own risk.  Hemingbrough Parish Council, the first tier of Government in England, is NOT entitled to buy any such Pigs.

The private “Parish of Hemingbrough Historical / Heritage Society” (PHHHS) may have bought a very large Pig! 

Eddie Kinsella, Chairman; Les Stebbings, Vice Chair; Susan Strelczenie, Secretary; Bob Procter, Fund Raising Officer; Mr J. Frank, Project Manager; and Indistinct Signature,’ Treasurer updated a PHHHS Constitution with their signatures on 18 June 2014.  Those active PHHHS project managers had Roland Chilvers as their Archivist to record what they did.  Shortly afterwards, Jan Strelczenie replaced the ‘Indistinct Signature’ as Treasurer.

The active PHHHS managers of Kinsella, Stebbings, Procter and Jan Strelczenie were either Hemingbrough Parish Councillors or would become Parish Councillors after the 2015 parish elections.  Susan Strelczenie, wife or partner of Jan, had been a Hemingbrough Parish Councillor until she lost her Council seat when the close relationships between Councillors became a local issue, especially as her husband/partner had voted for her in a co-option, despite professional advice for him not to do so.

Having bought their Pig for virtually nothing, the PHHHS allegedly took short cuts in turning it into the Memorial Garden, which all agree, is a better sight than the derelict Service Station that stood at the main village entrance.  PHHHS did not fill in three old, underground diesel fuel tanks.  Now, the PHHHS folly has been exposed, the massive tanks need to be drained, any contaminated fuel transported and safely disposed of, and the tanks filled with concrete slurry towards the end of the 2017 – a significant expense.  PHHHS failed to win a grant to cover the expense. 

The “Good Councillor’s Guide, essential guidance for local councillors” a Government publication, is standard reading for professional Parish Clerks and elected Councillors.  It says Councils cannot buy Pigs in a Poke, and Councillors must safeguard public money.  It is specific about “risk management and possible disaster.”  

The rules set by Government[i] are designed to make sure that the council takes no unacceptable risks with public money.  The words risk management should be engraved upon every councillor’s mind. The good news is that the rules protect you and your council from possible disaster. Your council should establish a risk management scheme which highlights every known significant risk in terms of the council’s activities and makes clear how such risks will be managed.” 

Hemingbrough Parish Council Chairman Strelczenie, in his official role, or as the former or maybe even current PHHHS Treasurer and project driver, it’s not clear which, - spoke from the Council Chairman’s seat, but sounded like a PHHHS Officer – to inform Councillors and the Public that PHHHS bought the land on which the derelict Service Station stood without documentation.  At least, that is what the official Council minutes say.

PHHHS was legally entitled to risk the money it raised by donations from residents and organisations.  It was their risk.

At their April 2017 Parish Council, Councillors faced an unusual piece of ‘correspondence’, as it was called on the Council Agenda, allegedly sneaking a major issue on to the Council Agenda in a  distinctly unusual way.

PHHHS, with Council Chairman Jan Strelcenie without his Council hat on, and Susan Strelczenie allegedly at the helm, proposed the transfer of the Memorial Garden to public ownership.  Allegedly, PHHHS offered no plans, drawings or detailed specifications.  PHHHS wanted rid of the Pig in a Poke land on which stands the Memorial Garden with its potentially high rectification costs.

In other words, PHHHS wanted to foist on to local residents the Pig in a Poke land without official, technical documentation, and without an official, Parish Council inspection beforehand.  From the ensuing Council actions, PHHHS, and Jan Strelczenie, expected the Parish Council to take over the land, the Memorial Garden and the associated costs without its own risk assessment or inspection.     Classically, this was a Pig in a Poke offer, despite the Good Councillor’s Guide and Standing Orders.       

Two Councillors, Forbes Davidson, the person who let Council Vice-chairman  Bob Procter’s[ii] private ‘Hall for Hemingbrough Project” details out of the bag recently at a bowls event, was the proposer of a Motion to take ‘the offer’.  John Sedman, who rarely speaks at any Council Meeting, about anything, ever, seconded the Davidson Motion.  The Clerk to the Council. Mrs. Leighton-Eshelby, allegedly gave no advice to Councillors, as often happens when the Chairman wants something.  Councillors must answer the allegation that they acted in defiance of the Council’s Standing Orders, the Good Councillor’s Guide, and common sense.      

Only Davidson, Sedman, J. Strelczenie and Parish Clerk know why they acted as they did.  Experienced Councillors, like Councillor Chilvers, believe the Council voted in principle to take over the Memorial Garden only when an independent Risk Assessment said it was safe and cost effective to do so.  No sensible Councillor would have done otherwise.   

Chilvers tried to warn you all of the folly of the Council accepting a Pig in a Poke without a formal risk assessment.  Chilvers told you technical plans and drawings must exist for a Service Station storing inflammable fuels.  He told you the Council should pass a Motion to locate them. 

Instead, you lazy, disinterested Councillors watched him bullied, month after month, by the Chairman, and did nothing to protect him.  Not one of you, Councillors or Clerk, could be bothered to locate the drawings and plans and report to the Council.    

Having listened to Councillor Chilvers from the Public Gallery, I took him at his word.  I resolved to find those plans and drawings.  I wanted to ensure the Council did not take over the potentially costly Pig in a Poke land without a Council risk assessment, from by a private group, PHHHS, that has insider help on the Parish Council.  I wanted to expose your disdain for the residents you allegedly serve.

I was shocked to discover the Parish Clerk admitted in the formal accounts for 2016/2017 that the Council had been building up financial reserves to take over the land and Memorial Gardens.  There was no Council mandate.  Councillors did not know! What significant costs were anticipated?  Only the Chairman and Clerk seemed to know that fact until I objected to the apparent deception in the official accounts!    

With one email and two telephone calls, with very little effort, in other words, I sat in front of the Selby District Council’s microfiche equipment reading and filming the full planning application, technical arguments, plans and drawings of the Service Station and the location of the fuel tanks.

I suggest you get the Clerk to do the same and include those plans in an independent Council risk assessment.  I suggest you publicly apologise to Councillor Chilvers, who was trying to do his Council duty, while you watched the bullying to keep him quiet, and you voted to exclude him from a meeting.  Shame on you.   

It is all on videotape.  By your actions, or lack of them, I think most of you should get off the Council and let Hemingbrough start again.    

I also suggest a Freedom of Information request to learn from the Selby Council microfiche record who accessed the same planning file in the past five years and may have been lying to the Council!

[i] The Good Councillor’s Guide
[ii] Bob Procter resigned from the Parish Council in July 2017, without any explanation.