Whitby's town poll question rejected by Scarborough Council

Whitby Town Council.
Whitby Town Council.

A parish poll question asking Whitby residents if they would like to leave Scarborough Council and join the Tees Valley Combined Authority has been rejected by the borough council.

A letter circulated at Whitby Town Council's full council meeting on Tuesday said that the poll was "unlawful" in its current form and must be amended before any vote can take place.

The question put forward to Scarborough Council on the back of Whitby's Annual Town Assembly was: "Do you want to leave Scarborough Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council to become part of the new Tees Valley Authority instead?"

Five concerns over the wording of the question were presented by the borough, these being:

1. Parish polls should serve as instruction to the town or parish council to do or to desist from doing something that is within its power, and there is no practical application in asking the electorate to vote on a question that has no practical application.

2. The Tees Valley Combined Authority is a 'partnership' comprising of only certain functions agreed to be shared between a group of other district/borough authorities, hence it is not a principal local authority.

3. A Parish/Town Council is required to fall under the governance of a principal local authority.

4. The question could mislead electors to believe that becoming part of the Tees Valley Combined Authority is a viable option, which it is not and therefore devoid of any practical application.

5. Must be relating to a 'parish' affair i.e. a local issue, activity or subject which the Town Council wishes to discuss, debate or potentially influence, and joining Tees Valley Combined Authority is not something which can be achieved as an outcome, therefore the Town Council is unable to influence the matter.

The borough council said that if the question is reworded the poll could be reconsidered, but the town clerk confirmed at the meeting that another question needs to agreed at a parish meeting.

Meanwhile, criticism of the parish poll has continued. A similar vote was held in 2009 where just 560 voters turned up out of an electorate of 10,600,at a cost of around £7 per voter.

In 2010 another poll. was called, this time there was a turn out of 99 people, with a cost of £52.52 per vote.

MP Robert Goodwill said the poll is a “real scandal” and insists that the law should be changed to prevent it from being possible.

He told the Gazette: “The law needs to be changed to prevent small numbers of people imposing these polls on local authorities when this money could be better spent on the people of Whitby.”