Councillor quits over parish council row

A COUNCILLOR has resigned in an increasingly acrimonious dispute over whether two villages should each have their own parish council.Stoke Ash and Thwaite, near Eye, have had a joint parish council for the past 27 years but, following growth in the latter's population, discussion began earlier this year in whether they should split.

A COUNCILLOR has resigned in an increasingly acrimonious dispute over whether two villages should each have their own parish council.

Stoke Ash and Thwaite, near Eye, have had a joint parish council for the past 27 years but, following growth in the latter's population, discussion began earlier this year in whether they should split.

However, the debate turned sour when the former chairman of the joint parish council, Mike Langan, resigned on a matter of principle.

Stoke Ash has a population of about 200 while about 130 adults and children live in neighbouring Thwaite, a village which is split by the notorious A140 road.

Thwaite was previously too small to have its own parish council and, up to 1976, had a parish meeting – an organisation which cannot raise funds by levying a local rate.

Now the population has grown sufficiently to allow it to have its own parish council - if such a move has local support.

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Mr Langan, a parish councillor for 15 years, said yesterday that a previous meeting of the council had agreed to vote on the issue at the next meeting, when more members were expected to be present.

But when the next meeting was held councillors refused to vote, saying they wanted more time to discuss the issues.

"It is not a question of sour grapes. I felt isolated and that I had lost the confidence of councillors. My position was untenable," he said.

Mr Langan said five of the six councillors present at the previous meeting had been for the split and the other had been undecided.

"We only put off the vote so that the two other councillors would be there," he added.

Mr Langan said the main reason for the proposed split was to give each of the parishes autonomy over spending.

"At the moment if we decide to spend some money in Stoke Ash we feel guilty if we don't allocate a similar sum for Thwaite.

But Peter Gammage, who lives in Thwaite and is vice-chairman of the joint council, said councillors representing the village had never asked for the equal distribution of money.

"The general view here is that there is no credible reason why we should split. In the absence of that we should keep the status quo," he said.

Mr Gammage said the split would prove costly with each parish council having to pay a clerk and an auditor and arrange separate insurance.

It might also be difficult for Thwaite to find five parish councillors – the minimum required – in an adult population of only 100.

"We were very sorry about Mr Langan's resignation as he has served the two parishes well," Mr Gammage added.

A parish council sub-committee has now been formed to try to gauge local residents' views on the issue. A previous public consultation exercise prompted only one response.

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