Dramatic departure of six Honiton councillors after council tax vote

Honiton Town Council

Honiton Town Council - Credit: Contributed

The ex-chairman of Honiton Town Council says his resignation was purely in protest at the decision to put up council tax, and nothing to do with the findings against him last month. 

Honiton mayor councillor John Zarczynski

Honiton mayor councillor John Zarczynski - Credit: Archant

John Zarczynski, vice-chair Carol Gilson, and Cllrs Jill McNally, John Taylor, Phil Carrigan and Luke Dolby walked out of the full council meeting on Monday, January 10 following the majority vote to increase the local tax by around £3 a month. 

In December an investigation by East Devon District Council’s monitoring officer found that Cllrs Zarczynski, Taylor and McNally had brought the town council into disrepute by failing to treat others with courtesy and respect during a meeting in October. 

But in a joint statement the departing councillors said the council tax rise had prompted their resignations. 

Supporters of the increase say it will fund initiatives to benefit Honiton and its residents. These include renovating the war memorial, improving the high street and boosting tourism.

But the former councillors said they ‘considered what can only be described as ill-defined vanity projects, not supported by credible costings or explanations, as unacceptable any time, but particularly now, in view of the current financial climate with households struggling to make ends meet’.  

They added: “Former councillors are mindful of public opposition to the council tax increase and wish to assure Honiton taxpayers, as now former councillors, we will continue to hold Honiton Town Council accountable for its spending of public money as members of the public.” 

Jake Bonetta

Jake Bonetta will join East Devon District Council - Credit: DCC

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In response, town and district councillor Jake Bonetta said he was ‘disappointed, but not entirely surprised’ by the resignations. 

He said: “All councillors had the opportunity to input into the budget before ratification, and a full summary of individual projects and budget headings can be found as a public document on the meeting’s public agenda. 

“This budget provides the town and the council with the ability to move forward from the inaction of the past, and ensures that we can proceed with visible and necessary projects that have been in the waiting room for far too long. It also offers the council some much-needed resilience in the face of legacy issues, such as previous legal spending.” 

There are now 11 sitting town councillors and seven vacancies, as another member, Vera Howard, had stepped down earlier this month.

The vacancies are now published on the town council’s website, and will be filled through elections, if local residents request them, or by co-opting new members chosen by the council. v