“Council won’t be abolished for another four years”, says councillor

A COUNCILLOR who campaigned for the abolition of a town council has revealed the process is likely to take at least another four years.

Cllr Matthew Heaton, one of 22 independent candidates from Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish Council (HELP) who were elected for Letchworth Garden City Council in last June’s elections, explained that current legislation and guidelines mean that the council, formed in 2006, has to exist for eight years before it can be abolished.

Cllr Heaton said: “It’s just a matter of looking to push for its abolishment as voted for but it’s difficult to give a definite time frame.

“It’s unlikely to be before the four year period as current legislation and guidelines state you have to exist for eight years before it’s eligible for abolition.”

Regarding the running of the council, which set a zero council tax precept for 2010-11 in December 2009, Cllr Heaton added: “Hopefully most people have not noticed any difference apart from not spending as much on council tax.”

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In a council meeting held at the end of last month, it was revealed that the total funds available to the council on August 31 were �272,412.

Expenditure by the council in 2010 includes almost �23,000 in legal expenses for Cripps Harriers Hall, offices used by the former council in Leys Avenue, Letchworth GC.

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These fees have arisen following a dispute over the surrending of the lease but Peter Groves, voluntary responsible financial officer at the council, said: “Some or all of this may be recoverable from the solicitors originally instructed to terminate the lease under its break cause.”

He explained that the council are taking legal action against the original solicitors for not carrying out instructions before the lease’s break clause expired.

Further legal fees in the region of �7,000 have been spent after a number of claims were made by former members of staff.

Cllr Groves added: “With luck, the current council funds will be sufficient to ensure that the council will not need to raise an additional precept before it achieves its aim of being abolished.”

Former councillor Derek Hodgson said: “The Helpless group criticised the former council for spending money on pensioner tea parties and coach trips, teenage football tournaments and family picnics in the park.

“I hope that the citizens of Letchworth take note of the different way the town’s money is being handled.”

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