Troubled town council faces new blow

A LOCAL government watchdog hit out last night at "mischievous destruction" at the heart of a troubled town council.The comments from the Mary Mitson-Woods, Chief Executive of the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC), come at the end of a torrid summer for Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

A LOCAL government watchdog hit out last night at "mischievous destruction" at the heart of a troubled town council.

The comments from the Mary Mitson-Woods, Chief Executive of the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC), come at the end of a torrid summer for Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

And they echoed fears of staunch town council supporter Alan Turner, a founder member of the authority, who said: "It is very awkward at the moment because I want this town council to succeed but it is ripping itself apart.

"I've got no problem with disagreements in council but what I dislike is councillors hanging their washing out in public - it doesn't do anybody any good. What do we gain when it gets personal?"


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Ms Mitson-Woods said: "There is a lot of mischievous destruction in Bury. I don't know why some of the councillors are taking this position - it is not achieving anything, it is costly to the town and extremely petty."

Dogged by controversy since its inception in 2003, critics say the council has yet to define its role in the town.

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Amid calls for the council to be disbanded, town mayor Mike Ames and Bob Cockle, the authority's first mayor, this month reported council auditor David Nettleton to the Standards Board for England for asking "too many questions".

In July, the council lost three of its leading figures, including former mayor Frank Warby, Paul Farmer and Terry Buckle, who resigned simultaneously.

Town clerk Linda Sherer denied the council was facing crisis but accepted some problems had been created by the departures: "The only problem has been three people resigning. From that all our problems started."

Deputy town mayor Paul Hopfensperger, said: "We are not in crisis. You cannot take a town council down. We are here doing the best for Bury and we will continue to be proactive. All I know is she (Mary Mitson-Woods) came to a meeting in August and witnessed a problem with a councillor."

However, he refused to drawn on the wisdom of reporting Mr Nettleton to the standards board.

Mr Nettleton said: "It is mild to describe the situation as awkward. I won't be reporting anybody (to the standards board) because it is not to the benefit of the town. We need to get on with our work."

Bob Cockle, who joined Mr Ames in his formal complaint against Mr Nettleton, stuck by their decision despite describing him as a 'brilliant council auditor'.

He said: "There is strict code of conduct governing councils. Persons who breach that code are reported to the standards board. We are simply following the code of conduct.

"We are not in crisis, we are planning for next year, we are planning for Christmas and we are carrying on with all sorts of business. The report on Mr Nettleton is not flippant or vexatious but I won't comment on it until the standards board reaches its decision."

Mr Ames was unavailable for comment.

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