Call for Lovejoy village parish council to resign to end infighting

Long Melford

Long Melford - Credit: Gregg Brown

The chairman of a beleaguered parish council in west Suffolk has called for all members to resign to put an end to infighting which has divided the local community.

At a meeting of Long Melford Parish Council last night, chairman Jayne Lines requested the mass resignation so the council could “start afresh”.

If all of the councillors step down, this would force a by-election where the “people of Long Melford” could choose the parish councillors they want to see in charge of their affairs, Mrs Lines said.

It is understood that all but one of the current members have agreed unofficially to the request and that their resignations will be tendered at an extraordinary meeting to be held next week.

Last month after tensions came to a head, police were called to two council meetings in the picture postcard parish, which became known as “Lovejoy Village” due to its regular appearances in the popular TV series.

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The council has become divided into one group of five, consisting of Ann and Paul Morton, Richard and Carole Michette and Liz Malvisi; and another group of eight.

The smaller group has been blamed for hindering council business by sending an unacceptable number of requests for council related documents and for being “disruptive” and “abusive”. In response, all have claimed they are purely trying to ensure that the council carries out its business transparently.

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A further blow was dealt just over a week ago when parish councillor of 10 months, Sarah Wordley, stepped down because she “did not feel able to properly serve” the residents of Long Melford.

At a recent public meeting, parishioners also made an impassioned plea for the infighting to stop.

But according to Mrs Lines, it had become clear that neither side was ever likely to agree, and the situation reached a stalemate because Babergh and Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) were unable to offer any solutions.

At last night’s meeting, she said: “Following the public meeting a couple of weeks ago, the public voted unanimously for a new council.

“We will have an extraordinary general meeting sometime next week and I will be asking each and every one of the councillors to stand down and then we will have a by-election and you (the public) can choose your parish councillors.”

Mr Morton, who was not at the meeting, said there was “no other solution” to the problem within the council.

He added: “I want to see a brand new parish council and I urge people to stand forward and get involved. I want to put the past behind us and focus on the future – that is something we can all change.”

A spokesman for Babergh District Council said if and when the councillors all officially resign, the vacancies will be advertised and if 10 electors request it, a by-election will be held. The whole process is likely to take up to two months and the parish council would have to foot the bill for the by-election.

If the number of councillors resigning renders the parish council “inquorate” – or unable to proceed effectively because it does not have the minimum of five members needed to conduct the council’s business – then Babergh could use its “emergency powers” to appoint district councillors to the parish council in the interim.

The spokesman said: “This appointment would only be for the purposes of conducting urgent matters of business.”

Last night, county and district councillor Richard Kemp made it clear that neither he nor fellow Babergh councillor John Nunn would be taking the reins in the interim.

He added: “The usual procedure is that the district councillors stand in. (However) we want truly independent councillors in, not people who have been involved in any way with what has been going on here.”

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