Row boils over appointment ‘lacking founding principles of democracy’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 June 2014

Archant

‘UTTERLY lacking the fundamental principles of democracy’ is how the appointment of a new councillor in Burnham and Highbridge has been described this week.

A row erupted last week when Councillor Helen Groves challenged a decision to keep members’ voting preferences secret during the co-option of Andrew Brewer onto Burnham and Highbridge Town Council.

Cllr Groves later criticised the ‘politicised nature’ of the vote, in response to which council chairman Martin Cox took the step of issuing a press release through the council to defend the democratic process.

In it, he wrote that her challenge had been ‘resoundingly defeated’ during the meeting, that the councillor position had been advertised to the public and further applicants could have been put forward on the night of the meeting.

He added that town clerk Denise Emery had been ‘very careful to follow the recommended practices of Somerset Association of Local Councils (SALC)’, and that he hoped Cllr Groves saw her comments were ‘in haste and without foundation’.

When contacted by the Mercury, Cllr Groves said she had not received the release and requested an apology from Cllr Cox over his statement.

She said: “I stand by my view that the process was not ultimately open and transparent, it is very clear that it utterly lacked the founding principles of democracy in denying information from the public.

“The Local Government Act deems information to be confidential only 
in instances in which personal or financial information is involved - this was neither.”

Cllr Groves also criticised the ‘lack of clarity’ that candidates could be put forward up until the start of the meeting.

She said: “There was also no advertising of the fact that any person could turn up and put themselves forward. No member of the public knew this, and therefore did not have the opportunity to engage in this democratic process.”

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