Eight walk out on parish council

Eight walk out on parish council

By Michael Upton | 04/04/2022

Eight walk out on parish council

 

A PARISH council was rocked by resignations after eight councillors quit en masse, with some citing feelings of intimidation and concerns over financial transparency.

Almost half the members of Thurcroft Parish Council have resigned over the past week — many of them having been elected only last spring.

Former vice-chair Cath Walker called for long-standing clerk Alan West to step down, saying: “We need a fresh council and clerk. We need a new council with new ideas.”

Ms Walker also called for more financial transparency, saying councillors were accountable to the public and should know how their money was being spent.

There were allegations of “dressings down” being handed out during meetings at the Gordon Bennett Memorial Hall, with ex-councillor Rob Ridler saying: “You’ve got to be quite careful about what you say.”

Cath McCartan, who was elected last spring, said on occasions she had felt “intimidated” and councillors had “had a go at me” at the March council meeting in a scene she described as “quite unpleasant”.

She said there had been a lack of transparency over finances, with the chair, Cllr Donna Andrews, and Mr West refusing to make details of the council’s income available to all members.

“Even the way the meetings are set up, with the chair and clerk on a top table, I feel they are talking down to us,” she said.

Former member Jodie Hall described her experience on the council as “awful”. She said she had felt people were “belittled” by the way she was spoken to by the clerk, and accused him of acting “like he’s above everyone else”.

Rob Ridler, who was elected last May but has also quit, said: “There have been instances where if you say anything wrong, you get a dressing down.

“The original members have been there so long they don’t want to change their ways.”

Mr West staunchly defended his record, saying he would not tolerating bullying but had overseen many “lively” debates since becoming clerk in 1979, adding: “I hope that this past experience places me in a reasonable position to identify the difference between views being exchanged in a robust manner and bullying.”

Mr West said he had seen no evidence of bullying, noting that no official complaints had been made and that there was “a convenient absence of detail” in the allegations of the former councillors querying why grievances about specific incidents had not been followed up at the time.

The clerk said he had analysed claims made by Cllr McCartan and found “some things which I just do not recognise at all”.

He said Ms McCartan had stormed out of her first meeting, “offering her resignation (which she subsequently withdrew) after a democratic decision did not go in her favour”.

Mr West suggested some of the resignations had been “orchestrated” as the letters  “indicate common descriptive phraseology”.

Long-standing members of the council would react with “total bewilderment, disbelief and anger at the finger being pointed at them” for allegedly “slating” the newcomers, he said.

The clerk added: “Thurcroft Parish Council takes the nature of these allegations extremely seriously and will objectively consider the resignations, reasons, their validity and perceptions behind some of the comments and determine any necessary improvement actions to move forward.

“Overall, it is a shame that this situation has developed at a time when in my opinion the parish council was moving forward and operating in some harmony relating to the consideration and delivery of real community benefit.”

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