Council in crisis after eight resign

By Sarah ChambersA PARISH council has been thrown into crisis after eight of its members walked out, leaving just one parish councillor still in office.

By Sarah Chambers

A PARISH council has been thrown into crisis after eight of its members walked out, leaving just one parish councillor still in office.

Eight members of Middleton Parish Council, near Leiston, have quit their positions, leaving it without a quorum, while the parish clerk has also resigned.

The only parish councillor left is Malcolm Blakeney, who has been called on to quit, but said he planned to stay in office. He faced a vote of no confidence from parish councillors a few months ago.

Parish councillors voted by eight to one in favour of dissolving the parish council at its meeting on March 14.

Stuart Andrews, ex-chairman of the parish council, informed villagers of the vote to dissolve it in the parish newsletter.

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“The result of the vote by the full council was eight to one in favour of the motion. To date, those eight have duly resigned to allow the election to proceed,” he said.

“Whilst we all appreciate the ninth councillor is under no legal commitment to follow suit, we would have considered it appropriate given the feelings of the other councillors.

“It is still not too late for the remaining councillor to comply with a democratic decision of the parish council.

“It could just be that the councillor is afraid of not being elected, but that position is one faced by remaining candidates.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council said filling the parish council vacancies could take until the end of June.

Council officials are hoping to fill the gap until then by appointing five people who have said they would be prepared to fill the breach.

Mr Blakeney said he did want to comment on why the other parish councillors had resigned, but felt it was about policies, not personalities.

“I don't think it's appropriate I should make any comments. People have decided to go, you should ask them. I believe there is business to be done and I'm staying. I don't have to go. It's up to them,” he added.

“In legal terms a parish council can't decide to have an election. If people want to resign in mid-term as it were, then that's their decision, but you just replace them so the local authority will be sorting that one out so we can start again.

“I don't think I'm afraid of being elected if I stood down because I have got a lot of support in the village who support what I do, so that would not have been a problem.”

Mary Mitson-Woods, chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Local Councils, said she had been involved in offering advice on the issue.

“I think basically councillors felt that they would stand down and cause an election in order that the parish should decide who should be on the council, but the whole council has not resigned and that leaves them inquorate,” she added.

“I think it's an extremely unfortunate situation. There's something obviously that people feel very deeply about to give up their seats and go to the village,” she said.

“I'm very, very sad when within a small village this sort of situation arises because it's bad for the community.”

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