Town council chiefs quit

By Sarah ChambersA CHAIRMAN and vice-chairman of a town council have voiced concern about the growing bureaucracy faced by parishes as they quit their posts.

By Sarah Chambers

A CHAIRMAN and vice-chairman of a town council have voiced concern about the growing bureaucracy faced by parishes as they quit their posts.

Framlingham Town Council chairman, David Griffiths, and vice-chairman, Roger Etheridge, resigned from the council following a planning meeting that included the controversial issue of a new town community centre.

Under the proposal, the town council would have an office within the centre, planned for the site of St Michael's Rooms in Church Street.


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All the other town councillors left the meeting after listening to advice from the town clerk, Eileen Coe, who had sought guidance from Suffolk Association of Local Councils and Suffolk Coastal District Council because of concern about the town council's position on the matter.

“I came to the conclusion that while individual members don't necessarily have an interest in this application, the town council as a whole does because on the plans it is stated town council office,” she said.

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Mr Etheridge and Mr Griffiths remained, but the meeting was no longer quorate and the matter was not discussed.

Mr Griffiths said he had taken the decision to quit the council with “deep regret”.

He added: “It has been a growing concern of mine that the rate of progress that we as a council have been able to achieve on behalf of the Framlingham community has been diminishing ever since the new code of conduct was introduced in such a divisive way.

“This and other unwieldy bureaucracy which we have had to face over the past few years has reduced the amount of 'effective time' councillors are able to dedicate to community affairs and the process of decision making.”

Framlingham Town Council accepted under protest the new code of conduct for councillors in 2002, which laid out new, more stringent rules on declaring interests.

Mr Griffiths said the latest situation over councillors' perceived prejudicial interests regarding the proposal for a new community centre for the town had been “the final nail”.

“It is disappointing to say the least that the town council finds itself unable to represent our community on what is probably the biggest decision the town has faced in many years,” he added.

Mr Etheridge issued a statement also expressing the “deep regret” he felt in reaching his decision and adding his involvement with the town council over the past few years had been “fulfilling, rewarding and most interesting”.

He added: “This decision has been brought about by the unfortunate circumstances we now find ourselves in, where common sense is overruled by bureaucracy, no matter what the underlying circumstances are.

“To efficiently carry out my role as a representative working for the best interests of the Framlingham community, I therefore do not find this now possible.”

Town councillor John Lockyer, a former vice-chairman, said he was sorry to see both men go.

He added: “It's unfortunate, the timing, because there is currently literally now a review of this process being carried out by the Government. It's a shame because hopefully something more sensible will come forward.”

n The annual meeting of Framlingham Town Council will take place at 7pm on May 7 at Sir Robert Hitcham's Primary School, at which a new chairman and vice-chairman will be elected from the 13 remaining members.

sarah.chambers@eadt.co.uk

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