Showdown over the role of coucil chairman

PUBLISHED: 07:14 06 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:34 24 May 2010

COUNCILLORS clashed over the role of North Somerset Council's chairman after it was revealed previous office holders had used taxpayers' money to visit clairvoyant evenings and other events in Wales. The row divided political parties after current chairma

COUNCILLORS clashed over the role of North Somerset Council's chairman after it was revealed previous office holders had used taxpayers' money to visit clairvoyant evenings and other events in Wales.The row divided political parties after current chairman Roz Willis defected from the ruling Lib Dems to the Tories. The ruling Lib Dems decided to scrap the chairman's £80,000 allowance for a car, chauffeur and assistant.Out of 400 ceremonial events attended by the last two council chairmen, 94 were outside of the county and 42 were in Wales.Events attended by former chairman councillors Bob Cook and Glyn Duck include a clairvoyant evening in Newport, a civic service in Ebbw Vale and a visit to Sherwood Energy Village in Nottingham.Lib Dem Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: "We only need a chairman to chair full council meetings once every six to eight weeks and represent the council and people at events."These events are very few and far between, so why are we sending a chairman outside the county that has nothing to do with North Somerset?"At the full council meeting on Tuesday (June 27), Tory councillors defended the trips saying they helped improve relations and promote tourism for North Somerset. Cllr Barry Waters said: "The trips to Wales are historic trips prompted by various tourist reasons to promote the numbers of people coming to Weston that provide a lot of custom to the town."Next carnival, just count the number of coaches from South Wales lined up on the seafront. Who decides what trip is relevant to North Somerset and what is not?"Councillors voted that up to 25 per cent of the proposed £80,000 savings should be retained to run the chairman's office, having now agreed what the role of the chairman should be. The other £60,000 will be a saving to the council taxpayer.

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