People demand referendum to decide future of divided council
PUBLISHED: 11:15 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:34 13 March 2020
Around 200 people have demanded a referendum which could see voters call for the resignation of their town’s divided council.
Connaught Hall in Attleborough was a packed house on Thursday evening as parishioners had their say on Attleborough Town Council and the heated saga which has left it in disarray.
The row has split the 15-strong council distinctly in two, with eight members - including the mayor, Tony Crouch - supporting the motion against Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer when it was tabled last month.
The remaining seven members, including the accused pair, chose not to vote having assumed the result a foregone conclusion and disputed the legitimacy of the process.
But at a parish meeting led by Breckland councillors for Attleborough, Tristan Ashby and Rhodri Oliver, the town's electorate was invited to debate the council's future amid increasingly uncertain times.
A spokesman for Attleborough Town Council had indicated earlier on Thursday that Mr Crouch and the town clerk, Gina Lopes, would not be attending.
Following a period of intense debate and discussion lasting more than two hours, those in attendance had the opportunity to approve parish polls - referendum-style questions which require a 'yes' or 'no answer.
They voted almost unanimously - with one abstention - for a parish poll with the wording as follows: 'Should all serving town councillors of Attleborough Town Council immediately resign to allow for new elections of Attleborough Town Council?'
Mr Tyrer, who has also been ousted from his role as deputy mayor, agreed the resignation of the entire council was the only way forward.
'I really cannot believe this whole situation - it beggars belief,' he said.
'The town council is broken and not working. It is dysfunctional and the only way to solve that, in my view, is to reboot and start again.'
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A second, unanimously approved parish poll read: 'Should there be an investigation into whether or not the council is following its rules and procedures?'
The poll proposals will now be lodged with Breckland Council, who decide whether it is valid to put them to the public.
However, the results of parish polls are not legally binding and town councillors would not have to resign even if parishioners voted in favour.
The open forum part of the evening's proceedings saw members of the public grill the eight attending councillors over what has transpired over the past few months and the rise in tensions over the last few weeks.
One speaker, Diane Ashton, asked Jacqueline Roper - the only councillor in attendance who signed the motion against Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer - what evidence she had seen before doing so.
Mrs Roper responded: 'I know I am in the minority. I understand there were some issues and for me it is about everybody being treated equally.
'We have to treat everybody - staff, residents - with due respect.'
When pressed further on the topic by audience member Mark Weaver, Mrs Roper said she had been presented with a 'list of issues' by Unite, the union who brought the initial complaint of behalf of its members.
She did, however, admit she had not seen the full extent of the bullying allegations.
Another member of the public, Elizabeth Burrows, questioned whether the term 'bullying' had been exploited throughout the ongoing saga.
She asked: 'Do people actually know what bullying is, or do they call robust questioning bullying?'
The town council has said Mr Crouch and Mrs Lopes will 'preside' over the annual town assembly from 6pm on Monday, March 16, which it is calling the 'official' parish meeting of Attleborough.