Coronavirus support group row culminates in legal action against coastal town council
PUBLISHED: 14:55 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 15:34 02 November 2020
A beleaguered town council hit by problems including rows and resignations has suffered a further blow, after being made the subject of legal action instigated by the founders of a local coronavirus support group.
Sheringham Town Council pledged to “rebuild bridges” after a row broke out between council-backed Sheringham Community Support (SCS) and rival group Mutual Aid Sheringham (MASH) over the replacement of MASH volunteer Jane Garry, who also supported SCS.
However, ill-feeling between the two groups intensified when SCS founder and deputy mayor Liz Withington was subjected to a string of abusive and personal comments on social media.
Mrs Withington, who was also the victim of a ‘gargoyle’ sticker campaign calling for her resignation, said at the time that the behaviour of some members of the community had led to her being fearful for her own, and her family’s, safety.
Claiming they had been the victims of “slanderous claims” by the town council, MASH founders Caz New and Jo Powers launched an online campaign to fund a legal challenge against the council, raising more than £300 in donations.
The legal action taken by Ms New and Ms Powers centres around a statement made by the town council expressing sadness that the two groups had been unable to reach agreement, which they said suggested they were under police investigation, which was untrue.
The row escalated further still in June, with councillor Jon Payne resigning over the “nasty” row and accusing the council of “hushing up things they don’t want people to know about”.
He was quickly followed by Neil Espin, who declined to give reasons for his decision and who has since been co-opted back on to the council.
Ms New said discussions between hers and Ms Powers’ solicitor and the town council’s legal representatives had reached a conclusion and that she would be issuing a statement shortly.
She added: “What all of us want to do is to put this behind us and focus on continuing the amazing work that all Sheringham’s volunteer groups have done over the past six months. We are all still here and we are all offering support during what is a very unpredictable time.”
A Sheringham Town Council spokesperson said a Freedom of Information Act request made by this newspaper was in the hands of the council’s solicitors.
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