Fury at councillor's no-show
By Craig RobinsonA LEADING councillor has defended herself following criticism after she failed to show up at a meeting to discuss a town's cultural future.
By Craig Robinson
A LEADING councillor has defended herself following criticism after she failed to show up at a meeting to discuss a town's cultural future.
Judy Terry, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for arts and leisure, was due to meet with representatives of the town's arts association on Tuesday to talk over the draft plans for a cultural strategy statement.
The 15-page document sets out how leisure and entertainment facilities will develop in the town in future years.
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Members from Ipswich Arts Association had submitted a list of questions to Mrs Terry, a Conservative borough councillor, in anticipation of her attendance.
But the day before the meeting council chief executive Jim Hehir telephoned the group to say that Mrs Terry would not be coming because of the forthcoming General Election.
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The move has angered some members of the association and Gillian Thomas, in a letter to the East Anglian Daily Times, has called the situation a “scandalous breakdown of the democratic process”.
She continued: “Judy Terry has been elected by the people to represent them and by her refusal to attend the meeting she prevented a democratic discussion and exchange from taking place.
“As a result of last night's fiasco everyone present is concerned that the consultation process should be extended for a further period so that concerned groups can actually be consulted.”
Mrs Terry said last night that the group had been told well in advance that it might be inappropriate for her to attend the meeting because of the impending General Election.
“The group were advised that it would be better if they could move the discussion until after May 5. They were repeatedly told that it was inappropriate,” she added.
“Because of my position on the council I have to have council officers with me when I go to meetings so that I do not commit the council to anything that I shouldn't.
“Under election rules, officers have to stay impartial in the build-up to an election and so the chief executive phoned the organisation to say that that he was not allowing me to attend because of those reasons.
“We will be writing to Ipswich Arts Association to arrange another meeting at a more convenient time when any of their queries can be answered.”
Jo Bounds, who chaired the meeting for Ipswich Arts Association, said the decision for Mrs Terry not to attend was “regrettable” and added the group was still seeking clarification of the reason why she was not there.