Unholy row over proposal to buy church

SEVEN town councillors stormed out of a meeting on Monday because they were refused the democratic right to vote. This is according to former Letchworth Garden City Council chairman Raymond Smale who, along with eight other councillors, had requested a sp

SEVEN town councillors stormed out of a meeting on Monday because they were refused the democratic right to vote.

This is according to former Letchworth Garden City Council chairman Raymond Smale who, along with eight other councillors, had requested a special meeting of the town's council to discuss the purchase of their permanent premises.

The wording of the meeting's agenda was "to discuss all matters relevant to Elim Church's acceptance of our offer of £400,000 for the purchase of their property subject to contract".

The town council chairman, Tony Wickham told The Comet that the full cost of purchasing Elim Church for town council premises was actually likely to be about £800,000 if refurbishment, alterations and lease costs were taken into account.


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Cllr Smale said: "I tried to put down a proposal (for a vote) for our clerk to write to the church authorities confirming the town council wished to proceed on that basis, subject to receiving available loans and grants, terms and conditions.

"It would also be subject to the clerk entering into negotiations with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation for an extended lease or purchase of the freehold and change of use under a separate payment to the Heritage Foundation.

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"I also requested that the clerk should then report back to the council for final approval on these matters.

"The chairman refused to accept my proposal as it was not relevant to the agenda item.

"Me and many other councillors were amazed as he had made it clear he did not want the town council to purchase the property.

"Prevented from exercising a democratic right to vote, I and a number of other councillors immediately walked out of the meeting.

"This is not the democratic and independent model town council that I fought for and a formal complaint will be made."

Mr Wickham said: "Procedurally we couldn't accept Cllr Smale's proposal as none of the remainder of the council had been notified of the proposal he was trying to make.

"The proposal was not documented on the agenda and, as Cllr Smale pointed out to me the previous week, if you want to make a proposal you have to issue a specific brief to all councillors.

"Procedurally the correct action was taken, as has been confirmed by the clerk."

Cllr Wickham added: "The seven councillors left the meeting without any apology to the chair or fellow councillors, who obviously gave up their time to attend this meeting along with members of the public and the district council."

The town council clerk, Richard Bowran, said: "When it came to the meeting a number of members wanted to introduce a proposal that we should make an offer for the purchase of the building.

"I had to rule that this was not permissible because it was presented in a way that was not viable.

"There was not sufficient information given to councillors in order for them to make a decision.

"A specific proposal had to have been made in the published agenda in order for it to be considered and it wasn't.

"A number of councillors walked out and said there was no point staying.

"I'm sure the subject will be raised again at the next scheduled meeting.

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