The sorry saga of SORA continues

WE BELIEVE that the Falkland Islands conflict was once described as “two bald men arguing over a comb” We don’t know if a residents association which represents 8,000 people but has only eight residents attending the meeting is the same thing but it feels like it.

What was once seen as the perfect template for resident representation seems, somewhere along the line to have gone haywire.

The meetings continued to be chaired by suspended councillor Sue Gray (Lab) Many thought that following the police investigation regarding the “Muslim e-mail” and with a local election campaign that cllr Gray would keep a low profile but she appears to have adopted a “Je ne regrette rien” philosophy.

YT asked local resident Peter Perrin for his take on the recent meeting. The committee are not available for comment and we understand that no minutes were taken of the meeting.

Mr Perrin said: “At the meeting, cllr Sue Gray, acting in her capacity as chairperson of South Ockendon Residents Association, attempted to have me, Mr Peter Perrin, a 78 year old veteran campaigner, a SORA member and a Belhus resident, removed from the meeting as a consequence of receiving a complaint from three members.

Cllr Gray then read out the following statement: “Chair had three complaints after the meeting [3rd March 2011] about Mr Perrin’s continued interruptions during the meeting and his attitude towards Chair. Members are concerned at the manner and attitude of the questions. Therefore Mr Perrin will be given a spoken warning at the next meeting he attends, if his attitude does not alter, he will be asked to leave”.

“I requested permission of the Chairperson [Sue Gray] to reply to her statement, permission granted,

I vigorously defended himself making the following statement.

My response to Sue Gray.

Thank you Madam Chair.

I am astonished that some Members are concerned at the manner and attitude of my questions. What do they mean by the manner and attitude of my questions do they consider my questions to be ill-mannered and have an attitude problem? You say you had 3 complaints, presumably from members of SORA, after the meeting on 3rd March 2011 about what they perceived to be my “continued interruptions “ and my “attitude” toward you as Chairperson.

Those members are entitled to their opinions but they are just their own opinions there are other members who are of the opinion that, far from being disruptive, I am simply asking a question and being persistent in getting an answer. If that upsets and irritates you and some members I do not feel obliged to apologise or change my ways as I do not consider I have done anything wrong.

Your statement that I will be given a spoken warning at the next meeting I attend, to say nothing of the manner you chose to announce it, plus the fact that I will be asked to leave if you or other members do not approve of my conduct, confirms my belief that you and they are determined to have me excluded from SORA meetings not because of misconduct or wrongdoing on my part but purely out of spite on your part and a vindictive desire to be rid of me..

Unlike most members of your Committee and some members of SORA , whose conduct you have encouraged and condoned , I have never been impolite, abusive, used foul language, made filthy remarks or physically attacked you or any other member of SORA. You do not consider their conduct merits any form of censure or apology but you see fit to censure me and exclude me from SORA meetings for what you and some members call my manner and attitude without any explanation as to what that means.

In the minutes of 3rd March 2011 meeting you make mention of the current code of conduct. Where was this code of conduct when you allowed a member to make filthy, insulting remarks about me, where was this code of conduct when you presided over a meeting of your Committee, to which I had been invited supposedly so that you and your Committee would listen to me and address some concerns I had raised, but in reality turned out to be a kangaroo court at which I was bullied, harangued, threatened, verbally abused and physically attacked by members of your Committee which you made no attempt to stop. In fact so bad was the behaviour of some members of your Committee the meeting had to be abandoned.

It seems that you are being selective as to whom this code of conduct applies and in my case you are using it as a means of silencing me and preventing me from attending SORA meetings.

Quite frankly most members of the Association do not need a code of conduct to tell them how to behave, courtesy, politeness and good manners is second nature to them, it is you, some members of your Committee and members you invite to make comments about other members who need lessons in how to behave and conduct themselves. I will take no lessons or lectures from you or any member of your Committee as to how I should behave and conduct myself.

Thank you Madam Chair.

I was asked, by Sue Gray, to leave the meeting at which point several members protested that she had no reason to require that Mr Perrin leave the meeting and her action was unwarranted.

In the face of this unexpected opposition Cllr Gray, visibly shaken and clearly frustrated, was forced to back down but at the same time commenting that if some members were not happy with how she ran SORA then they should leave and form their own association.

When later asked I said that I and other Belhus residents were already planning to break away from SORA and form the Belhus Tenants and Residents Association so that the Belhus Councillors would be required to concentrate on Belhus issues, be more accountable to the people who elected them i.e the Belhus Ward voters and leave South Ockendon residents and councillors to deal with their own issues.

In view of the current situation, which appears to have reached a “stand-off” between the two “warring” factions a break away is the inevitable solution.

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