‘People are angry and fed up’ - council’s future up for debate as ‘bullying’ row continues
PUBLISHED: 16:06 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 12 March 2020
Sonya Duncan/Breckland Council
The future of a divided council could become clearer as residents seek a resolution to the “bullying” row which has cast a shadow over their town.
Following a turbulent few weeks, Attleborough's electorate has been invited to have its say on the burning issue of the year during a parish meeting at Connaught Hall on Thursday (March 12) evening.
It takes place amid a heated saga within Attleborough Town Council (ATC) which has seen two members, Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer, stripped of their committee roles over 'harassment, bullying and intimidation'.
Both strongly deny the accusations and have vowed to clear their names.
Despite members of the public being permitted to grill ATC at a full council meeting on Monday (March 9), mayor Tony Crouch refused to discuss the origin and nature of the alleged bullying in an open forum.
Later on during proceedings, it was revealed more than £13,750 has been spent on the services of a solicitor in recent months, with another £660 spent on security staff for two previous meetings.
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Under a cloud of uncertainty, a significant turnout is expected at Thursday's meeting, organised - among others - by one of Attleborough's Breckland councillors, Tristan Ashby.
'I've been inundated with people saying they are angry and fed up,' said Mr Ashby. 'As Monday's meeting showed, when the public gets the opportunity to ask questions, answers are not forthcoming and that just adds to the frustration and the confusion.
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'It's not just about the 'bullying' issue. Things have not been running well for a good 12 to 18 months, and this has brought everything to a head.
'The public needs an opportunity to air their views and have their questions answered.'
Likely to emerge from tonight's meeting is a parish poll on the town's council's future, which would see a question asked to the electorate in the style of a referendum.
A petition started by Mr Ashby and fellow Breckland councillor, Rhodri Oliver, has gained more than 800 signatures having called for the entire council to resign.
Miss Taylor, who has herself called for re-elections, believes any eventual parish poll in Attleborough is likely to follow a similar theme.
'I'm assuming it will be closely linked to the petition which, in my opinion, already carries so much weight,' added Miss Taylor. 'More people have signed it than actually voted for any of the existing councillors.
'Whichever way the electorate votes on a parish poll, it is so hard to ignore. Legally you can ignore it, but morally I don't know whether you should. As a council we have a code of conduct to best represent our residents.'
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Mr Ashby added: 'Those 15 councillors are not working together and I don't think they ever will, which is why the petition asked for everybody to resign and to have a fresh vote.
'People have been asking what they can do and, while a parish poll is non-binding, it is doing something. What's clear is that we cannot go on like this.'
A spokesman for Attleborough Town Council confirmed Mr Crouch and town clerk Gina Lopes would not be attending Thursday's meeting, but would instead 'preside' at an 'official' parish meeting on Monday, March 16.