Public can carry on ‘time wasting’

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VILLAGERS will continue to be allowed to raise concerns at Moulton Parish Council meetings despite complaints of timewasting and animosity.

Councillors discussed whether or not to continue holding an open forum at which members of the public can speak before the council’s monthly meetings, prompted by a decision by Holbeach Parish Council to ask people to submit questions in advance.

Despite support for the forum by some councillors, others said they had been subject to “animosity” from villagers and felt it was a waste of their “precious time”.

Coun Byron Hahn said: “As councillors we are volunteers within the community and our time is precious. A lot of time is taken up by talk that is unnecessary.”

And Coun Paul Winn said: “I don’t mind being challenged but as a newcomer I have felt a certain amount of animosity between the public and the council.”

Members discussed the possibility of asking residents to submit their questions beforehand, but eventually decided to continue with the open forum, with chairman Lawrence Wakefield using his vote to carry a proposal put forward by Coun Eddy Poll.

Earlier in the meeting Coun Poll had suggested the council needed to rebuild a relationship of trust with residents after mistakes were made that led to around £61,500 going unclaimed in VAT.

A member of the public questioned figures included on the agenda for the final salary for clerk Geoff Barham, who is leaving at the end of the month.

The question prompted an angry response from Coun Hahn, who said: “Residents have elected us and as such have put their trust in us and I don’t think it’s within our role to have to explain everything we do.

“Somewhere residents have to put their trust in us and if you have a complaint to make that a specific person or the council has made a grave error could I suggest you put it in writing.” Coun Wakefield said the figures had been approved by the auditor.

Coun Poll said: “I think the difficult thing is that the parish is worried about the discrepancy in our book-keeping.

“I think the criticism is justified and arguing about why people are questioning us on figures is no way to build relationships.

“We made a mistake this time and ought to put our hands up and try to regain their trust.”

l Mail for the council should be sent to chairman Lawrence Wakefield at Holly Tree Farm, Moulton Eaugate, Spalding, Lincs PE12 OSZ, until a new clerk is appointed.

Members agreed a professional evaluation of the clerk’s role should be carried out before the vacancy is advertised.