'We don't want a town council' - Letchworth residents vote

MORE than three-quarters of residents who took part in a parish poll voted in favour of dissolving Letchworth Garden City Council. Chairman of the town council, Philip Ross, failed to attend the count at Howard Hall on Norton Way South

MORE than three-quarters of residents who took part in a parish poll voted in favour of dissolving Letchworth Garden City Council.

Chairman of the town council, Philip Ross, failed to attend the count at Howard Hall on Norton Way South on Monday night to hear the crushing outcome.

With a 15.6 per cent turnout, 2,994 said yes to getting rid of the council, while just 928 were against the proposal.

Nigel Jury, who is leading the campaign to abolish the town council, said of his landslide victory: “I’m extremely pleased we got a three to one majority in favour. We no longer think the town council has a mandate. We will review our position when our group meets in a week.”

Sulu Long, who is part of the group calling for the town council to be abolished, said: “It’s absolutely disgraceful that the chairman or vice chairman [of the town council] didn’t turn up. They are obviously not interested in the voice of the Letchworth people.”

Speaking for North Hertfordshire District Council, Cllr Tricia Gibbs, portfolio holder for community engagement, said: “The parish poll in Letchworth Garden City has been a fascinating exercise in local democracy. We will watch the town council’s response with interest.”

Most Read

In a separate poll question, nearly two thirds of voters were in favour of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF) having representatives for its board elected every four years, instead of the current structure of governors and directors. Also with a 15.6 per cent turnout, 2,503 residents voted in favour of the proposal, while 1,360 were against the idea.

Cllr Ross said: “These results say that the main objection to the council is the cost and the main objection to the Foundation is its accountability. We will work to justify our cost, but what will they do to make themselves accountable and fully democratic?”

Director general of LGCHF, Stuart Kenny, said: “I must make it clear that the Foundation regards the poll as an unlawful process which is not binding on us in any way. I therefore do no more than note the outcome of the poll with interest.”

LGCHF failed in a High Court bid to get an injunction to stop this question, proposed by Cllr Ross, from being asked as part of the poll.

The Foundation called for a judicial review on the grounds that a parish meeting has no power to call a poll concerning the internal governance arrangements of a private charitable body, and that two Acts of Parliament lay down rules for the governance of the Foundation which cannot be overridden by a parish meeting.

Mr Kenny said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the High Court’s decision. He said the Foundation would be making an appeal, despite the fact the poll has now taken place, at which “the Foundation’s serious and genuine concerns about the legality of this expensive poll will be reconsidered.”

* LAST week Letchworth Garden City Council was put up for sale on eBay by a group calling itself The Letchworth Garden City Trust - the same group which has set up a spoof website about the town council, at www.letchworthgardencitycouncil.org.uk

With a starting bid of one penny, the town council was never actually for sale, with a message on eBay stating any bidder would receive nothing.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter