Candidates for Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South post call for Norfolk County Council leader to resign
PUBLISHED: 17:08 22 September 2012 | UPDATED: 16:52 23 September 2012
Calls for the leader of Norfolk County Council to resign and for the authority to be more “open and transparent” were made at a public meeting today.
Three candidates standing in the county council by-election for the Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South division took part in a question and answer session at South Lynn Community Centre this morning.
The event was chaired by anti-incinerator campaigner Mike Knights and saw Alex Kemp (Labour), Kate Sayer (Lib Dem) and Michael Stone (UKIP) answer a plethora of questions about the controversial plan to build an incinerator in Saddlebow and on Norfolk County Council, which awarded a contract for the scheme to Cory Wheelabrator.
Mr Knights began the meeting by announcing that the fourth candidate for the upcoming by-election, Paul Foster (Conservative), pulled out last night because he felt he would not get a “fair hearing”.
The candidates were then asked what they thought would stop the incinerator plan and what they would do to ensure it was stopped and what their views were of current county council leadership.
They were also asked how they would go about making the county council more accountable for its actions and gain back public trust and if they thought the county council leader should step down.
The Labour candidate said she wanted the county council to be “much more transparent and open” about the incinerator plan.
She also told residents: “I don’t believe the Tory county party has the interest of this area at heart.
“The county council is happy for us to have all of Norfolk’s waste come here but we deserve better.”
She later added: “I find it amazing Derrick Murphy can represent this area but ignore the wishes of 65,000 people who voted against the plan in the referendum held by the borough council. Mr Murphy should resign.”
Meanwhile the candidate for the Liberal Democrats said the only way to stop the incinerator from going ahead was if enough county councillors said they didn’t want it.
She also told the meeting: “I’m appalled by the current leadership at the county council. It has shown disrespect for people in this area and we have lost trust in the county council completely.
“Norfolk County Council has made no attempt to increase recycling. The surrounding counties are up to 70pc mark and if we did that, we would never need an incinerator.
“There are also much better ways of dealing with waste than incineration.”
She later added: “The only way to make the county council more accountable is to hold an inquiry which will bring out their inability to be open with the people of West Norfolk.”
Answering another question, she said: “He [Derrick Murphy] has already run away from West Norfolk hasn’t he? I think he has behaved despicably.
“He wasn’t prepared to listen to the views of the people of West Norfolk. He has an arrogance that doesn’t allow him to recognise we have an democracy in Norfolk.”
The UK Independence candidate said he believed the county council “panicked” by coming up with its “unhealthy and dangerous” solution to Norfolk’s waste problems.
He later added: “If no-one votes for the Conservative party in this by-election, it will deliver a large enough message to County Hall that we don’t want the incinerator.”
Referring to the county council leader, he continued: “If this incinerator is such a good idea why doesn’t he take it with him? It has been too easy for him to run away. He should step down in shame.”
The by-election, which will take place on Thursday, September 27, was triggered following the death of Conservative David Harwood.
Speaking after the meeting, Mike Knights said: “All four candidates had agreed in advance to participate in this event giving them an excellent opportunity for public engagement.
“Although the meeting was a success it is regrettable Conservative candidate Paul Foster decided to pull out at the last minute.
“He missed a golden opportunity to put his case to the public and answer his critics. He had wrongly assumed that he would not get a fair hearing.”
Mr Knights added: “The candidates gave a good account of themselves and there was a friendly and good natured atmosphere between all parties without the hostilities sometimes seen in contentious by elections.”
Also speaking after the meeting, Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said he had no intention of resigning.
“If I or the county council has done something wrong, then I would ask for it to be proven,” he told the EDP. “I follow government policy.
“I also run the biggest majority of any party to have held Norfolk County Council and I would ask Ms Sayer why, if her party is so wonderful, two of her party defected to the Conservative party last year?
“She is trying to win an election in a time where her political party is at an all-time low in the polls so I’m not surprised she has said what she has. I would, however, ask what evidence she has to base her statements.”
He continued: “Openness and transparency are the bedrock of any democracy and if I or Norfolk County Council has done anything wrong, individuals can hold us to account.
“The current government, the last time I looked, was a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and it was a department of this government which has given us the biggest grant in Norfolk County Council’s history.”