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Campaigning heats up ahead of ‘no confidence’ parish poll on future of Suffolk council

PUBLISHED: 08:26 27 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:31 27 June 2018

Hadleigh Guildhall is one of three polling stations for the parish poll Picture: GREGG BROWN

Hadleigh Guildhall is one of three polling stations for the parish poll Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk voters will have their say on the future of a troubled town council amid growing community tensions.

Hadleigh’s “parish poll” on Thursday will ask whether or not the electorate wants the town council to resign due to a lack of confidence.

The poll was agreed after former deputy mayor Bill Wilson proposed a motion at a meeting in May, which won enough support.

Mr Wilson, who resigned from the council earlier this year, said he had concerns with the way the authority has been run. He claims it failed to engage with the public and “fresh blood” was needed to end the “stagnation”.

Relations in the council have soured amid disagreements between longer serving members and newer arrivals, which led to mediators being called in.

However, Hadleigh mayor Peter Matthews has rejected criticisms, saying the council had engaged well and its problems stemmed from new councillors “throwing their toys out the pram”.

He claims the poll is a waste of money as the public will have its say on who represents them at next May’s council elections.

Mr Matthews criticised the ‘yes’ campaign, which has put out leaflets labelling the council “dysfunctional”, accusing it of “mismanaging” the Guildhall, “racking up debt” and failing to engage with the community.

“People on the street are saying who are these people behind this leaflet,” he added.

“They’re very concerned that faceless, nameless people want to take over – it’s quite concerning.

He said the leaflet contained “rumours” and called for people in Hadleigh to ignore “fake news” and “stand by your council”.

Steve Allman, of Hadleigh Together, the group that produced the leaflets, said the council was “scared” of social media.

“The council would rather think Hadleigh Together is just four faceless people but that’s where they’re missing the point about strength of feeling,” he added.

“We could have put 500 names on the leaflet, but Hadleigh Together is not a political party, it’s a movement for social change and it’s bigger than the people who started it.”

Mr Allman said the leaflet claims were based on the best available factual information, which the council had failed to disprove.

Polling will take place from 4-9pm on Thursday at three stations.

A result in favour of ‘yes’ would not compel councillors to resign – though campaigners say it would make their position untenable.

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