Filming of parish council meetings putting people off from joining

Martin Thrower, Broadland District Council's monitoring officer, is looking for residents to join th

Martin Thrower, Broadland District Council's monitoring officer, is looking for residents to join the village parish council.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Members of a struggling parish council claim people are being put-off from joining due to meetings being filmed by a former councillor.

Salhouse Parish Council faces an uncertain future due to an ongoing struggle to find people from the village willing to join its ranks.

Should it fail to attract any new members, it could be forced to amalgamate with a neighbouring parish or cease to operate altogether.

Existing councillors believe part of the problem is due to its monthly meetings at the Jubilee Hall being recorded from the public gallery.

Martin Thrower, who was appointed to sit on the council in May last year, said: 'We have tried desperately hard to encourage people to stand.

'One of the issues has been that members of the public can turn up and film the meetings and some people have said it does put them off.

'I have put down a notice that this can't carry on the way it is and I want to get to the bottom of why people are not prepared to stand.

Most Read

'If it doesn't happen and there is no interest, then quite seriously they have to look at other options and that might be merging with another council.'

The council's problems started in 2012 when several councillors resigned at the same time.

It has struggled to rebuild its numbers ever since, despite a relatively large turnout from the public at its monthly meetings.

Colin McCormick, who has been with the council since 2003, said: 'We do have some people who come to every meeting and they tend to be former councillors who seem to be monitoring our performance, which does seem to be a bit strange.

'Especially when they are asked if they are coming back on the council and they say 'no thanks' as they have done their time.'

He said the filming of proceedings resulted in an 'underlying feeling' that someone was trying to catch members out.

But former parish councillor Stephen Piper, 69, who has recorded every meeting since 2014, said it was necessary.

'I have been asked by the parish council not to do it,' he said. 'But because of the way the minutes are recorded, a lot of things tend to slip through.

'If I don't do my recordings, a lot of things could be lost.'

He believed one of the reasons why people might be reluctant to join was due to the length of the meetings.

Mr Piper, who said he may one day return to the council, said proceedings can last for up to four hours at a time.

Last year, Broadland District Council had to appoint three people to sit on the council to enable it to function.

The three members, including Mr Thrower, who works as the local authority's monitoring officer, do not live in the village.

It means Salhouse currently has seven councillors, but only four are from the local community.

Do you have a council story? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.