Honiton Town Council under fire for abandoning meeting after licensing row

PUBLISHED: 16:50 26 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:12 27 February 2018

Top left: John Burgess, bottom left: Cllr John Zarczysnki. Inset: The Beehive in Honiton.

Top left: John Burgess, bottom left: Cllr John Zarczysnki. Inset: The Beehive in Honiton.

Archant

Criticism has been directed at Honiton Town Council’s decision to suspend its meeting last week.

The backlash comes after it was revealed the council sought legal advice almost four years ago on the same licensing issue which led to last week’s meeting being abandoned.

On Monday night (February 19), Councillor John Zarczynski told members that a vote was previously carried for the Liz Tirard Room at the Beehive to be de-licensed.

It came after he had been made aware of the 1972 Local Government Act, which states it is unlawful to hold meetings on licensed premises.

Mr Zarczynski told the meeting repeated requests made to Honiton Community Complex to de-license the room failed.

Councillors voted to abandon the meeting amid fears that it was being held unlawfully on licensed premises.

The meeting will now be held tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Mackarness Hall.

Beehive director John Burgess said the council would have been ‘criminally incompetent’ if it had not addressed the licensing issue before to moving into the community centre.

He added: “The council did address the licensing issue before it met in The Beehive, took advice, approved a policy and has met there with no issue ever since.

“So why are the mayor and his deputy now arguing the council should not meet in The Beehive when they voted in the policy?

“There is no need for the company running The Beehive to de-licence the council meeting room, all that is required is for alcohol not to be sold during the time of a council meeting.”

Minutes of the council’s policy meeting held on May 27, 2014 show members received written confirmation from the Devon Association of Local Councils, stating that it could meet at the Beehive as long as ‘no alcohol is served in the room the meeting is held in’.

However, Mr Zarczynski has since told the Herald that the decision to abandon the meeting was made on ‘up to date’ information supplied by the National Association of Local Council (NALC) and legal advice given by East Devon District Council’s monitoring officer.

Further criticism of the council’s decision has been made from former town councillor Luke Harvey-Ingram.

He said: “This isn’t a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, as the molehill was nonexistent in the first place.

“I suggest that the blame for what Cllr Kolek terms a ‘constant bad press’ for the council lays directly with the council itself.

“For Cllr Zarczynski to try to blame the directors of the Honiton Community Complex for the fact that they were even having the discussion is laughable.

“It is time the council leave this ridiculous storm in a pint glass behind, and get on with the job that they have been elected to do.”

Mr Zarczynski said: “Our current decision was based on up-to-date information received from NALC and legal advice given by the Monitoring Officer.”

He added that he was unable to comment on correspondence from 2014 without reading it first.


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