Calls for council chairman to quit after he tells public to “suck up” £15,000 contract blunder

Brandon Town Council chairman Phil Whittam. Photo: Phil Whittam

Brandon Town Council chairman Phil Whittam. Photo: Phil Whittam - Credit: Phil Whittam

The chairman of a town council has been called on to resign after he told members of the public to “suck up and live with” a contract blunder which has cost the authority £15,000.

Chairman of Brandon Town Council has been called to resign. Picture: Chris Bishop

Chairman of Brandon Town Council has been called to resign. Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

Phil Wittam told onlookers at a virtual meeting of Brandon Town Council on Monday that the council had “made a mess” of a consultancy contract.

The debate came as Mr Wittam answered questions from the public, where a dispute was revealed about a contract with the health and safety consultancy Ellis Whittam.

The meeting heard that, in 2019, a five-year contract was signed with the company, which would cost the council around £15,000, but was only revealed to councillors in June of this year.

The “confidential matter” was brought up by former councillor Gary Brocklehurst - an issue which led him to resign back in May.

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In response, Mr Wittam said: “In March 2019 we were signed up to a new contract with Ellis Whittam for health and safety representation.

“There was no agenda item, there was no resolution, no vote, nothing.

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“It happened when Penny Etherington was chair. It was under her watch. It was hidden from the council until May or June of this year.

“It is a mess that the town council was put in and it will cost us £15,000 plus.”

But Ms Etherington, who was chairman in 2019, responded: “First and foremost, Ellis Whittam health and safety were extremely useful and it got us out of a huge hole.

“You can try and blame me as much as you want but I was not aware at the time that it had been renewed.”

After back-and-forth between councillors and members of the public on the issue, Mr Wittam finally told them to “suck it up and live with it”.

“I will shoot anybody right between the eyes in three year’s time if they suggest we signed up with Ellis Whittam for a third period of five years,” he said.

Mr Wittam also refused to answer any more questions from another former town councillor, Mark Skinner, who was told at the start of the meeting to “go back and do your homework”.

Mr Skinner then called for the resignation of the chairman, saying there was “no confidence” in him.

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