'We are not having a chat-chat' - councillors in fiery exchange as two new members co-opted onto Honiton Town Council

PUBLISHED: 15:26 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:42 15 July 2019

(Top) New councillors Michelle Pollington and Ray Hanratty; (bottom) Cllrs John Zarczynski and Caroline Kolek. Picture: Callum Lawton

(Top) New councillors Michelle Pollington and Ray Hanratty; (bottom) Cllrs John Zarczynski and Caroline Kolek. Picture: Callum Lawton

Archant

Town Council descended into chaos last night after just two candidates of five vying for six vacant seats were co-opted.

A row erupted following a secret ballot, which saw Cllrs Ray Hanratty and Michelle Pollington co-opted, and candidates Lynsey Skinner, Carla Salisbury and Carrie Holdsworth miss out on a seat.

Mayor Cllr John Zarczynski and former mayoress Cllr Caroline Kolek butted heads after the latter said she was informed that not every candidate would secure a seat on the authority.

Cllr Kolek told the meeting she knew before the weekend of the outcome.

She said: "A councillor here had told the member of the public that they knew (they would not all be elected) - how did they know that?"

Cllr Zarczynski said he could not speak on behalf of members of the public and refused to turn the debate into the 'Councillor Kolek show'.

The former mayoress abstained from voting to co-opt the new members to the council.

Cllr Zarczysnki told Cllr Kolek the council was having a meeting and not a 'chat-chat' when she tried to explain her reasoning to Cllr Hanratty.

She told Cllr Zarczysnki 'don't speak to me like that' before order was restored.

A busy public gallery gasped as the results were read out by Cllr Zarczynski, prompting one candidate to leave the meeting.

Cllr Hanratty, a former town councillor, received the most votes (10) and Cllr Pollington secured nine.

Mrs Skinner and Mrs Holdsworth received five votes each, just one below the needed vote tally to win a seat.

Mrs Salisbury got three votes.

Mrs Skinner stormed out of the meeting after the results were announced, telling the authority she was 'not surprised'.

There are still four vacancies at Honiton Town Council.

The recent was another debacle for the troubled authority, which in 2017 saw one-fifth of its serving members resign in the space of weeks.

Every seat in the May 2019 election was uncontested, and no-one came forward in the 18 months empty chairs were vacant.

Speaking after last night's meeting, Councillor Colin Hattle-Spence told the Herald he voted for all five candidates.

He said: "I felt that all applicants met the criteria for selection and I support the townsfolk of Honiton with their desire to fill the vacant positions.

"The candidates were willing to attend both the June and July council meetings, allowing themselves to be scrutinised in public.

"I feel that Honiton Town Council missed a golden opportunity to elect five co-optees who with their varying skills and talents would have injected vitality, vibrancy and diversity with infectious ethos."

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