Agenda delay is final straw

Paul Arnott resigns from Colyton Parish Council over “a litany of issues”

BATTLING Colyton parish councillor Paul Arnott has resigned amid further allegations of rule breaking.

He quit last week after claiming that the authority had failed to supply members with agendas within the legally required period before committee meetings.

Mr Arnott’s departure follows what he described as “a litany of issues” including a police investigation, launched at his instigation, into the council’s operating procedures.

Officers were called in after he lodged a complaint into the way colleagues appointed members to serve on the Colyton Feoffees and how this was recorded in the minutes.

Police later ruled there were no grounds for a criminal prosecution but concluded the council did fail to meet “the standard expected of a public office”.

Now, following his fresh claims of procedural irregularities, Mr Arnott says unless the council members are retrained there is no way they can serve the best interests of the community.

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Explaining his decision to quit he told The Herald: “At a meeting on February 27 I questioned why councillors never received their agenda for finance, planning or amenities committee meetings until we arrived in the room.

“The dangers of this 11th hour distribution are apparent to anyone who has sat on a committee of any kind, let alone a council dominated by forceful characters.

“I hoped, but sadly did not expect, that fellow councillors and the clerk would recognise this serious lapse without the need for further discussion or investigation. Since December 2010 we have had a strict set of rules, or standing orders, which make it a legal requirement for all agenda to be in the possession of councillors three days before meetings.

“This three day notice principle is nationwide, and ensures that financial, planning and amenities decisions are not preordained by a clique which has control of the council, reducing the bewildered rest of us to merely wield the rubber stamp. This is not, I hope, what the Prime Minister and Mr Pickles have in mind when the “Big Society” grants more powers to local councils in the coming months.

“I will be attending the next full meeting of the council in the public seats. I remain deeply grateful to those who voted for me at the election last year, and will do my best to work for transparent local government using all that it has been my privilege to learn over the last six years.”

Parish Clerk Liz Berry said they had not been told the reason for Mr Arnott’s resignation so could not comment on his claims of rule breaking.

She added: “But we shall miss Paul’s input”

In a statement to Mr Arnott, East Devon council’s monitoring officer Denise Lyon said this week: “There was agreement from some of the members of the parish council that they would welcome training and it is on my list to decide and agree how best to organise and pay for it.”