Parish council in limbo as all but one councillor resigns in protest

Vacancies are being advertised at a parish council after nine of its members resigned leaving only one remaining member.
The announcement at North Thoresby parish council's website.The announcement at North Thoresby parish council's website.
The announcement at North Thoresby parish council's website.

It comes after months of issues at North Thoresby, Grainsby and Waithe Parish Council resulting in the announcement this week that nine councillors had handed in their resignation along with the clerk, Simon Baxter.

Their resignation letters have been shared publicly and they have aired a number of grievances about alleged “harassment” they have faced.

Those that stepped down were councillors Jones, Howard, Berryman, Gallop, Marshall, Snell, Spence and chairman Billy Buckenham. A lengthy statement was also released allegedly from the outgoing councillors airing their reasons for leaving.

It now falls to East Lindsey District Council to organise the election and appointment of new councillors.

A spokesperson from East Lindsey District Council said: “East Lindsey District Council has received confirmation of councillor resignations from North Thoresby, Grainsby and Waithe Parish Council. These vacancies in office will be advertised in accordance with legislative requirements.”

She added: “In the interim period the district council will be appointing persons to temporarily support the parish council as it cannot currently operate due to being inquorate.”

The only remaining member on the council is Coun Lynne Gale.

The ELDC spokesperson added: “The council has previously appointed temporary members to parish councils when they have been inquorate. Those temporarily appointed are usually district or county councillors.”

Residents have been given 14 days from the date of each of the notice of vacancies to request for an election to fill the vacancies, in writing to the Returning Officer at ELDC, it needs to come from ten electors of the parish, (by providing a name, address and signature for each elector). If the request is made an election will be held to fill the vacancies; otherwise the vacancy will be filled by co-option.

The spokesperson later added that the council has received allegations relating to the Parish Council and is “considering them in line with its standard procedures”.

She went on: “In accordance with the Localism Act 2011 the district council is responsible for considering allegations that a parish councillor has failed to comply with the Parish Council’s Councillor Code of Conduct. There are no powers to suspend or disqualify a councillor. Complaints can be resolved through an informal resolution process or a sanction may be recommended to the parish council if a breach of the code is found by the district council. The Parish Council is responsible for investigating complaints made against its employees.”

A statement from Coun Lynne Gale has been published.

It says: “There is now only one person, Councillor Lynne Gale, who is working on behalf of the community and is arranging for elections to be held to form a new parish council.

“In the meantime, this website, and ONLY this website, will reflect the views and actions of the North Thoresby, Waithe and Grainsby Parish Council.

“If you read any other website, Facebook or other social media pages purporting to be the North Thoresby, Waithe and Grainsby Parish Council, please ignore them and come to this website.

“If you are interested in becoming a councillor, please review the Parish Council Vacancies page where you will find more information.

“For further information, please contact Councillor Lynne Gale.”

In his final days before leaving his post, clerk Simon Baxter wrote to regular hirers of the village hall to notify them of a temporary suspension of hiring of the hall.

In his letter, seen by the Louth Leader, he states that most of the parish councillors have resigned to protect their health and welfare due to “the ongoing abuse, harassment and intimidation by a small minority of the community”. He stated that the councillors had been subject to abuse, physical attack and unfounded allegations.

As he too was resigning he said he needed to protect the legal liability of the council while it was unable to function and check fire and safety elements. To protect the village hall manager legally he had made “the difficult decision” to suspend the hiring of the village hall from 4pm on February 1 until ELDC appoints a functioning parish council. The village hall manager was instructed to inform hirers when the suspension could be lifted.

In a collective resignation statement seen by the Louth Leader, the councillors said: “We volunteered to help our community, not become the target of vile and criminal abuse by people claiming that this is in the public interest and trumpeting “freedom of speech” while blocking anyone who disagrees with them on social media. This has had an impact not only on us, but our family and friends.”

They added: “With the invaluable help of our clerk, Simon Baxter, we have taken cost cutting measures, kept a tight rein on the budget and this has enabled us to keep the precept the same this year and lock it in place so the next council cannot take more money out of your pockets. We have introduced an Anti Fraud & Corruption Policy and secured a safer banking system so that, unlike before, no payment can be made without double authorisation.

"We have made savings where we could and invested in a defibrillator contract that means no villager will ever be unable to access this life saving equipment. We have increased the hire of the hall by 43 per cent, published accounts regularly on line, introduced a range of new Health and Safety measures or procedures to the village hall, commissioned an asbestos survey and reduced the newsletter spending by working collaboratively with

other community groups. Events such as the light switch on, tractor run and sociable soup have been a joy and it has been lovely to see the village community come together.

“We would like to thank our clerk, Simon Baxter, who has supported us through this journey.

“We would also like to thank those few villagers who have come to our meetings, and have had a small taste of the intimidation and harassment that we have faced for months.

“As those of us left are resigning at the same time, the parish meeting requested will not go ahead so the £5,000-plus cost of the resulting poll will not fall on you.

"We would strongly recommend that 10 of you write individually to East Lindsey District Council asking them to hold an election for parish councillors. Although this will cost the parish, it will in the long run save you much more and help secure the future of the village hall.”