Councillors resign as row over welfare hall name-change escalates

Controversy: Plans to rename the miners' welfare hall have caused bitternessControversy: Plans to rename the miners' welfare hall have caused bitterness
Controversy: Plans to rename the miners' welfare hall have caused bitterness
A ROW over plans to re-name a Dearne Valley miners’ welfare hall has become increasingly bitter, with a growing public backlash and councillors resigning.

Plans to rename Great Houghton Miners’ Welfare Hall in memory of late former councillor Dorothy Higginbottom MBE emerged recently and were discussed at a meeting of Great Houghton Parish Council, which meets at the hall and had proposed using a prefix of the late councillor’s name, in recognition of her service to the village, on the hall’s title.

But around 30 people turned up to object and since then the row has escalated, with an apparent concerns about how the parish council - which is chaired by Dorothy Higginbottom’s daughter, Cllr Dorothy Coates - made their decision.

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Although those attending the meeting were told their views would be taken into account, it has since emerged that a change of name notice had been lodged with the Royal Mail.

Minutes from a parish council meeting late last year also state that it had been “agreed, subject to appropriate approvals/support being obtained” that the hall would be renamed ‘in memory of Cllr Dorothy Higginbottom who worked tirelessly for and in the community for over 60 years.”

Now, the Weekender understands, three of the ten strong parish council have tendered their resignations.

Their motives for standing down have not all been made clear, but Cllr Coates said a Facebook campaign had targeted parish councillors.

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“Regrettably some have now resigned. I’m sorry that a handful of people have badly affected them and their families on a decision which they made in good faith,” she said.

However, that is contradicted by the resignation letter of one of the those stepping down, Phill Gregg, which stated: “The recent saga around the renaming of the Miners’ Welfare Hall and lack of transparency with the public and the failure to follow correct official procedures and declarations of interest have led myself other option than resign from my post.”

The name change at the Royal Mail had been made by the parish clerk without councillors’ knowledge, Cllr Coates said, and added that she had not voted and had not proposed the change of name.

The hall was built and maintained for the benefit of the area’s strong mining community, but when the industry collapsed, it was given over to the parish council and is operated for the benefit of residents.

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As the debate over the decision evolved on social media, resident John Gerrard said he “went to school in Great Houghton, worked at Houghton Main (colliery) for years in the 80s, I was grateful like many for the meals served at the miners’ welfare hall during the year-long strike.

“Naming the building anything different to what it has always been is disrespectful for the community.”

Cllr Coates said the parish council’s intention had been to “pay a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication of my mother Dorothy Higginbottom MBE.”

“They have a right to do that,” she said.

Some of those involved in the debate, and objecting to the welfare hall’s name being extended, had suggested attaching a plaque to the building to mark Cllr Higginbottom’s contribution, or naming a public garden in her memory.

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