Residents in Chapel St Leonards protesting against a massive 41.54 per cent hike in the council tax precept were horrified by the display of unprofessionalism shown at last night’s meeting of the parish council.
They were expecting fireworks as they demanded to know why they were left to foot the bill for a claim amounting to £15,000 made against the council by the former clerk Michael Green after his resignation.
We took legal advice and were told that if it went to tribunal we could lose and the payout would have been about £100,000. We were advised to settleClerk Christine Newton
What the crowd that gathered at the village hall saw was a ‘circus’, with residents calling for a vote of no confidence in the whole council after it took more than an hour to co-opt two new members from four candidates, basically because councillors could not agree on the correct procedure.
Coun Rae Rigby resigned and walked out after objecting to the procedure outlined to the new clerk Christine Newton by East Lindsey District Council monitoring officer, only to appear soon afterwards saying her resignation was not legal as it was not made in writing.
Former parish councillor and village ‘Santa’ David Yaxley was eventually co-opted by the casting vote of chairman, Coun Mel Turton-Leivers,
The other successful candidate was retired MoD accountant Brian Dear, Unsuccessful were Cath Willbye and Peter Keefe.
Young single mum Karen Sim, who was experiencing her first Chapel Parish Council, had told the Standard earlier she was considering starting a petition to call for the councillors responsible for the precept hike to be forced pay rather than the public.
However, after the co-option of councillors, she asked: “How can you have confidence in a council like this.”
Another newcomer to the meetings, Sam Smith, said: “This is a joke. They should vote them all out.”
For many it was all too much, with one member of public on the front seat commenting: “I’m really not used to all this. I’m usually watching Emmerdale.”
However, clerk Christine Newton, who had tried her best to bring order to the proceedings, explained that individual councillors could not be expected to pay for the claim against the council because it was a corporate body.
She said: “We took legal advice and were told that if it went to tribunal we could lose and the payout would have been about £100,000. We were advised to settle.”
Leaving the meeting, Karen Sim said she was having second thoughts about organising a petition. She said: “Basically they (the council) are telling Chapel residents they should do as they are told. There – that’s a quote for you.”
Father Terry Bardel, who was also among the crowd at the meeting, said: “It’s all very sad. I know the councillors individually and they do a lot of good work in the village.”