Letchworth council pushes ahead with abolition

PUBLISHED: 11:55 07 December 2011 | UPDATED: 17:33 07 December 2011

A TOWN council has taken a significant step towards dissolution after councillors voted on Monday to commence the official procedure required for abolishment.

Letchworth Garden City Council, in which 22 of the 24 elected councillors represent the Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish council group (HELP), has empowered its General Purposes Committee - due to meet on Tuesday - to request North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) to undertake a Community Governance Review (CGR).

This process, which typically takes a year, could lead to the town council’s closure if it is deemed the council is not a necessary provision and the recommendation for it to be dissolved is accepted.

The decision comes after outstanding matters - including an employment tribunal with former staff, so far resulting in expenditure of more than £100,000 - were considered by council to have been resolved in its bid to become a non-spending council.

Legislation under the previous government had meant that the council, which was formed in 2006, must exist for eight years before it can be abolished but this has been changed by the Coalition Government after gaining power last year.

Council chairman Cllr Frank Lovett said: “The rules concerning parish councils are enshrined in strict legislation and although it is easy to start one, it is very much more difficult to end one. We’ve had to work carefully for two and a half years to sort out the issues left to us by the out-going council in 2009.

“Now that those matters are all resolved we are able to move on to implement the mandate that we were elected for, which is to ask NHDC to officially dissolve the parish council. We hope the taxpayers of Letchworth will find this a welcome relief in these hard economic times. An extra annual tax-bill of half a million pounds would be unthinkable if the council were to be resurrected.”

A budget of £42,997 for 2012-2013 was also agreed at the meeting, in which it was revealed that by March 31, 2012, the end of the financial year, the council anticipates it will have £95,976 in its account. A council tax precept of zero was also passed for the third year running.

Cllr Sue Johnson, one of two representatives of the Town Council Supporters Party that serve on the council, said: “They’ve spent nearly all the money and none of it has been spent on the people of Letchworth. They’ve wasted the money - this is suppose to be a non-spending council.”

Monday’s meeting had to be temporarily suspended after Letchworth GC resident Pauline Worland interrupted proceeding by shouting from the public gallery about “all that money” which had been spent without taxpayers permission, calling HELP councillors “a load of sheep”.

Cllr Lovett threatened to remove Ms Worland from the building, reiterating it was “a meeting held in public, not a public meeting”, before proceedings resumed.

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