More Fireworks in Langport
I wish I was writing an article about the Aller bonfire, but sadly I am setting down a more sorry state of affairs. Nor is this sorry state of affairs anything to do with the van fire on Somerton Road this morning that caused chaos in Langport and to those trying to travel through it.
Earlier this week we were told that four of the Langport Town Councillors had resigned and reported the fact on this website. Subsequently they sent a written statement to us and a select number of other individuals in the town.
The sad thing is that, as the item that has given rise to such friction in the town was held in camera, we as ratepayers cannot have a clearer view of what the whys and wherefores have been.
And now the fallout continues with the resignation of the Town Clerk. Robin Williams has served the council for over 8 years as clerk, but, perhaps not surprisingly in view of the allegations that have been made, is now considering legal action against the Council. We understand that in his resignation letter he makes it clear that his resignation is a direct result of the events at the last town council meeting and frustration at persistent attacks on the position of Town Clerk by a small but vociferous group of Councillors. We understand that he goes on to point out that he believes these persistent attacks effectively prevented him from carrying out his duties and have been detrimental to his health.
Out of consideration for the town the clerk has offered to continue in post until 9th September to give the town time to find a replacement.
One thing is certain. The town of Langport has lost a valued and long serving clerk with a wealth of experience. He will be sorely missed. Anyone who has served on a council without a clerk, or indeed with an inexperienced clerk, will readily testify to that!
It would not be easy to paraphrase the toing and froing that has happened and in fairness to all concerned, what I have done is reproduce in full the various statements, which I think you will find to be self-explanatory.
Firstly the statement from the four councillors who resigned:
We apologise to the people of Langport but we feel we have no alternative but to resign from Langport Town Council. This move has upset us a great deal and we feel we are letting down many people and organisations within the Town.
However, we seek to divorce ourselves from:
• an ethos within the Council that demonstrates lack of care and respect for not only some Councillors, but employees and those it represents.
• lack of consultation with other groups (both statutory and voluntary), partner organisations, individuals and the wider community in general.
• decisions that we consider to be potentially illegal, unethical and immoral, and without regard for the Council’s own regulations and procedures.
We have not taken our decision lightly, but we feel at the moment that we can be more supportive of our community from outside the Council.
In representing our community, we are proud of our achievements over the past few years and we intend to stand for election to the Town Council in May 2015. We encourage others to do the same in the hope that this will herald a fresh start.
Val Saunders, Julie Taylor, Caroline Dunn and Cara Naden
In response to this, Julia Gadd, on behalf of Langport Town Council, issued the following statement this morning:
We were surprised to receive a copy of the above statement as there was no indication of the points raised in any of the letters of resignation received from the 4 former councillors. These were simply one line letters asking me, as Chairman, to accept their resignations with immediate effect.
Had the individuals shown enough respect for the Council to raise the matter with me, a face to face discussion could then have taken place. However, the Town Council cannot ignore the points made and we would therefore give the following response on a point by point basis.
• The Council, as a corporate body has always tried to show respect to individual Councillors but occasionally discussions become heated and comments may be made that upset individuals. This is not evidence of a lack of respect but merely an outcome of full and frank debate.
The Council only has one employee, namely the Town Clerk. The only recorded evidence of disrespect being shown to employees is in fact from the four individuals named above. Subsequently, as a result of what he perceives as constant attacks, the Clerk informed me earlier this month that he was considering his future and has now submitted his formal resignation.
• Langport Town Council consults regularly with numerous bodies, both statutory and voluntary. One of the responsibilities of Councillors when appointed is to take decisions on behalf of the electorate. When it is appropriate, consultation takes place with the wider community but this is not always possible due to the timescale in which decisions have to be taken. Members of the general public are welcome at all Town Council meetings when they have the opportunity to put forward any points of view that they may hold. Also the Clerk is available in the office on a Tuesday and Thursday and can normally be reached at all times by telephone.
• We are amazed that a claim that the Council has taken decisions that could be considered to be illegal, unethical and immoral has been made in such a fashion. The correct procedure for this, if Councillors felt this to be the case, was to refer the decisions that they considered to have been taken in this way to the District Council Monitoring Officer while they were still Councillors.
We would like to thank the Langport Leveller for giving us the opportunity to respond to the statement made by former councillors.