Town takes offence to council ‘threats’

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Town councillors in Whitby have reacted angrily to a “thinly veiled threat” they received from their county council counterparts.

Following the exclusion of county councillors Joe Plant and David Chance from the decision to implement parking restrictions in Whitby, the town’s mayor John Freeman wrote to the county council to express his concern.

The county council’s legal team had decided that as Coun Plant owned property in Whitby and Coun Chance’s partner had business interests in the town, they both had a pecuniary interest in the decision.

Coun Freeman received a letter from Catriona Gatrell of the county council’s legal and democratic services department suggesting that by debating the issue of parking and park and ride, the council themselves may have been in breach of the code of conduct.

Councillor Amanda Smith said: “I think this is an attempt at intimidation and we need to stand up against this as a council. It’s suggesting that we as a group of councillors have committed a criminal offence in discussing park and ride.

“We must not let them ride rough shod over us.”

Niall Carson was the only councillor present who did not have property in the town.

The perception was therefore that by the county council’s standards, he was the only one not committing a criminal offence by taking part in the debate.

Coun Ian Havelock said: “I think the county council have made a grave error and that will be revealed.”

The MP for Whitby, Robert Goodwill, has himself question the decision to exclude Whitby’s two councillors from the committee meeting, saying it makes a mockery of local democracy.

He intends to write to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to express his concern that two local councillors, who had spent years gathering the appropriate information, were excluded from a debate that would influence the entire town.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “In Parliament we vote on Income Tax and VAT, it affects us all.

“I just think they need to get a bit of perspective and if we are going to have local democracy, it’s bizarre that you exclude the people that understand the problem most of all.”