Councillors defend private house parties
DISCUSSING council business might be made much more enjoyable with some fine wine and cheese to enjoy.But councillors in Aldeburgh have been accused of “cosying up” at private house parties to “talk shop” when they should be deliberating in the council chamber.
By Richard Smith
DISCUSSING council business might be made much more enjoyable with some fine wine and cheese to enjoy.
But councillors in Aldeburgh have been accused of “cosying up” at private house parties to “talk shop” when they should be deliberating in the council chamber.
The issue was discussed at an official council meeting after Cllr Tony Graham-Enock invited all members to a party at house - and at his expense - to discuss the town's Christmas lights with the Aldeburgh Business Association.
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Councillors insisted they were not breaking their code of conduct by discussing town council affairs at functions away from the council chamber in the Moot Hall - and said it was a good idea as long as any decisions were taken in the chamber.
But others members disagreed, and said it put pressure on other councillors to hold similar social events, who could be uneasy at the cost involved and the differences in social status.
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Mr Graham-Enock said of the meeting: “The (business) association felt it was an historic moment. It was the first time they could get together with the town council and they will have a return match.”
And Marianne Fellowes, one of eight councillors who attended the meeting, said: “I found it very useful.
“It provided a very good background to finding out more about each other's aims and ambitions. There was no sidling up.
“As a town council we need to listen to people. I do not think we broke any of the code of conduct.”
But Stephen Hawes, a councillor for 15 years, said the “cosying up” at wine parties in private homes was not the right image for the town council and all meetings should be held in the council chamber in the Moot Hall.
Mr Hawes said some councillors would not want to hold meetings in their homes and it was only fair that everything was conducted in public in the Moot Hall.
“There are councillors who can not afford to do this and therefore it is not satisfactory to have meetings to which they may not wish to go.
“Several years ago there was embarrassment caused by the atmosphere in which they found themselves. It is quite unacceptable,” he said.
Hugo Herbert-Jones, deputy mayor, said: “There is a division of opinion here. I do not have a real problem with these meetings.
“I do invite people to talk shop in my house when it is convenient. It is consultation and informative.
“I would like to propose that we continue to do this provided the business in hand is brought back to the Moot Hall afterwards.”
His proposal was passed at a recent council meeting with only two councillors voting against it.