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Coronavirus: Referendum to decide future of divided council put on hold

PUBLISHED: 12:58 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 01 April 2020

Parish polls which could see voters call for the resignation of Attleborough Town Council have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Parish polls which could see voters call for the resignation of Attleborough Town Council have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

A referendum which could see voters call for the resignation of their town’s divided council has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taila Taylor Taila Taylor "categorically denies" allegations of bullying made her against her and fellow Attleborough town councillor, Ed Tyrer. Picture: Breckland Council

Last month, during a town council meeting fraught with emotion, more than 200 people demanded parish polls following a row over bullying allegations within Attleborough Town Council (ATC).

Last month, during a town council meeting fraught with emotion, more than 200 people demanded parish polls following a row over bullying allegations within Attleborough Town Council (ATC).

During a parish meeting at Connaught Hall, the room voted unanimously barring one abstention for a parish poll asking whether Attleborough''s town councillors should resign. Picture: Taila TaylorDuring a parish meeting at Connaught Hall, the room voted unanimously barring one abstention for a parish poll asking whether Attleborough''s town councillors should resign. Picture: Taila Taylor

But amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the polls have been delayed and will not take place until further notice.

ATC had become embroiled in a heated saga after two members, Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer, were accused of a campaign of “harassment, bullying and intimidation” - allegations they strongly deny.

Attleborough mayor Tony Crouch was among eight councillors who voted to remove Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer from committee duties. Picture: ArchantAttleborough mayor Tony Crouch was among eight councillors who voted to remove Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer from committee duties. Picture: Archant

But eight members of the 15-strong council - including the mayor, Tony Crouch - supported a motion to remove Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer from their committee roles.

At the meeting at Connaught Hall led by Breckland district councillors for Attleborough, Tristan Ashby and Rhodri Oliver, parishioners approved two parish polls - referendum-style questions requiring a yes or no answer.

A parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council was held at Connaught Hall. Picture: ArchantA parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council was held at Connaught Hall. Picture: Archant

MORE: Town rallies around elderly, vulnerable and those in isolation

Ed Tyrer was removed from committee duties with Attleborough Town Council following claims of Ed Tyrer was removed from committee duties with Attleborough Town Council following claims of "harassment, bullying and intimidation". Picture: Attleborough Town Council

The wording of the first poll - approved almost unanimously, with one abstention - was: Should all serving town councillors of Attleborough Town Council immediately resign to allow for new elections of Attleborough Town Council?

Breckland councillors for Attleborough, Rhodri Oliver (pictured) and Tristan Ashby, led a parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council. Picture: Breckland CouncilBreckland councillors for Attleborough, Rhodri Oliver (pictured) and Tristan Ashby, led a parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council. Picture: Breckland Council

Parish poll results are not legally binding and town councillors would not have to resign even if parishioners voted in favour.

A second, unanimously approved, parish poll read: Should there be an investigation into whether or not the council is following its rules and procedures?

Breckland councillors for Attleborough, Rhodri Oliver and Tristan Ashby (pictured), led a parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council. Picture: Breckland CouncilBreckland councillors for Attleborough, Rhodri Oliver and Tristan Ashby (pictured), led a parish meeting to discuss the future of Attleborough Town Council. Picture: Breckland Council

The poll proposals were lodged with Breckland Council, whose responsibility it is to decide whether a valid process had been followed before putting the questions to the public.

But the district council has put the referendum on hold amid the pandemic.

In a joint statement, Mr Ashby and Mr Oliver said: “It is really important to protect people during this crisis and so there is no doubt this is the right decision.

“More than 200 people turned out to make sure that Attleborough residents are be allowed to give their views on the current town council.

“We wish everyone the best in the meantime and look forward to us being able to have these parish polls once it is safe to do so.”

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