LOCAL council meetings are something I regularly attended – and enjoyed – in my early days at the Chronicle.

The late nights were always worth it for the material they yielded for the newspaper that followed. Sift through the clear cliques, the catty jibes and political point-scoring and they were a treasure trove.

I caught the final days of Brierley Town Council before its abolition, watching on as the clock struck 8.30pm as members argued over a few quid given the financial mire it was plunged into by former clerk Jan Cooper, who fraudulently pocketed £700,000 before being jailed.

The heady smell of Grimethorpe Welfare Hall’s highly-polished floor still lives long in the memory, as does the final-serving mayor Tony Parkinson apologising profusely for the no-show of Tony Devoy, who was seemingly annoyed by everything anyone ever said.

Then there was Shafton, a well-run organisation under the guidance of the brilliant Dave North who steered the ship through choppy political waters when Jeff Ennis, who then represented the North East ward, thought it wise to make his annual visit to a village two miles up the road to talk about his hatred of the Chronicle and his undying affection for Labour.

However, although my parish council reporting is a thing of the past, the goings-on at Great Houghton Parish Council have raised my eyebrows on multiple occasions in recent weeks.

Its home – the Great Houghton Miners’ Welfare Hall – was given its name decades ago to honour the service and indeed local lives lost in the many collieries that surround the village.

Then, a potential for a name change was put forward, and all it would mean was putting the name of ‘Dorothy Higginbottom’ instead of ‘Great Houghton’.

Now, Dorothy – who died aged 80 in 2022 – deserves a mention as her entire life was given to the community she loved. She served on the parish council for more than half a decade and, up until her final year was with Barnsley Council – representing the North East ward – for 16 years.

She was a popular woman who – in my own experience – would do anything for anyone. Never would anyone be as well qualified for a permanent reminder of her community-minded life.

The hall’s name change appears a slight change, at first glance, but it’s one that irked many ex-miners and their families, especially so because it appeared – despite the protestations of parish councillors – to have been signed, sealed and delivered if the Royal Mail’s website was anything to go by.

Reading between those now-blurred lines, I think it’s the latter that reeks of ridiculousness and it’s why so many people have been annoyed by the parish council’s flagrant disregard for opinions. Nobody in their right mind would argue that Dorothy deserves recognition for her work, but signing off a name change – with zero consultation – just isn’t right.

Her daughter, Dorothy Coates, is the current chair of the parish council and her statement – issued to the Chronicle last week – suggests something iffy has gone on because you’d expect her as the organisation’s lead to have knowledge of what occurs away from public meetings.

So, the question is this: who decided – on their own – to send the name change to the Royal Mail?

Who thought they were more important than the whole community, who seemingly are completely against what they decided?

Brierley Town Council’s nonsensical running towards its end took some beating, but this debacle’s occurred a handful of miles down the road and it doesn’t exactly shine a positive light on members.

This week, we’ve seen a statement issued by its clerk, Martin Fensome, who said ‘the matter is now closed’.

Just like that. Nothing about why, or how, or who.

The mind boggles at such idiocy and the curt clerk’s response.