Councillor censured over conduct
By David GreenA PARISH councillor has been formally censured for his part in a controversy surrounding a plan for a new adventure playground for children.
By David Green
A PARISH councillor has been formally censured for his part in a controversy surrounding a plan for a new adventure playground for children.
The controversy, and the extra work needed in dealing with it, has led to the resignation of Bob Moyes, the long-standing clerk to Gislingham Parish Council.
The chairman and a replacement clerk have also resigned since the row erupted.
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A plan to move the site of the playground and provide new equipment has almost total support among villagers and members of the parish council.
But there has been a running row over the conduct of parish councillors and allegations of failure to declare personal interests.
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One parish councillor, Chris Tutin, lodged a complaint to the Standards Board of England that one of his colleagues, Norman Pollard, had failed at five meetings to declare a “personal and prejudicial” interest relating to the play area's relocation, namely ownership of land adjoining the existing site.
The complaint further alleged that Mr Pollard failed to register his trusteeship of Gislingham United Charities, owner of the new site, and that his behaviour at one meeting brought his position into disrepute.
A committee convened by Mid Suffolk District Council under the auspices of the Standards Board for England found that Mr Pollard had failed to comply with the local government code of conduct with regard to non-declaration of interests at three of the five meetings and failing to leave the room while the subject was being discussed.
It also found he had failed to register his trusteeship of the charity -but it cleared Mr Pollard of bringing his position into disrepute and praised him for his “frank and open response” to the complaints procedure.
The committee's decision was to censor Mr Pollard and recommend to the parish council that it regularly reminded members about declarations of interests and approved clear terms of reference for the play area committee.
Mr Tutin said he did not want to comment on the complaint or the outcome. “However, I am in favour of the relocation of play area and the new designs look excellent,” he added.
Mr Pollard said he had always declared an interest when discussing the existing site because he owned land next to it, but did not think he had a personal or prejudicial interest in the new site.
“The adventure play area committee has been faced with destructive criticism since we started. It is so childish that someone coming from the outside would not believe it is happening,” he added.
Diane Kearsley, vice-chairman of the parish council, said: “The Gislingham Adventure Play Area Committee hopes to open the first stage of the play area during the summer's school holiday.
“It is a tremendous achievement and those involved should be applauded for their hard work and dedication.”
Mr Moyes, 79, said: “I had been doing the clerk's job for 25 years, but the adventure playground hassle got too much for me.”