Gagging claim over seafront meeting
FURIOUS councillors today claimed they had been "gagged" after being told they could not speak or vote on Felixstowe's biggest project for years.But they were not alone in condemning a controversial meeting being held to discuss the £15 million-plus scheme for the resort's south seafront.
FURIOUS councillors today claimed they had been "gagged" after being told they could not speak or vote on Felixstowe's biggest project for years.
But they were not alone in condemning a controversial meeting being held to discuss the £15 million-plus scheme for the resort's south seafront.
Disabled residents were denied access to the meeting - held in a first floor room - and all residents were told they could not speak or ask questions.
Protesters gathered outside the Town Hall as the meeting to allow town councillors to give their views on the housing and leisure project got under way.
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Because most members of the town council also sit on Suffolk Coastal's task group and cabinet which is promoting the project, or live near the site, they have been told they have prejudicial interests in it and cannot speak or vote.
Of the 16 councillors, nine are barred from the meeting.
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Councillors Mike Deacon, Malcolm Minns and David Cawdron could attend to speak but not vote, and those who could make a decision were Mike Goodman, Don Smith, Cyril Webb and Mike Stokell.
Town and district councillor Mike Ninnmey said: "This is the biggest and most important development the town has had and we have been gagged. It's outrageous.
"This is a denial of the representation of the people. It makes you ask what we have been elected for as councillors if we are not allowed to voice the views of the people who elected us. Surely we are elected because we have an interest in local issues!
"You might as well let the officers run the council. This new law on interests was brought in because of scandals involving national politicians and was not intended to effect local councillors in this way.
"When more than 50 per cent of the council is barred from attending and only 25pc can vote, that does not give the town's view."
Mr Ninnmey said he was barred because he attended one meeting of the south seafront task group before resigning from it.
The decision on prejudicial interests - made by monitoring officer Bruce Laws at Suffolk Coastal - has to ensure councillors are seen to be "whiter than white" in dealing with issues where they may have conflicts.
Belonging to another authority and playing an active role in making a decision on an issue could make a councillor prejudiced in favour of that authority.
Edwina Rust, of the Save Our Soakaway group, campaigning against the scheme for the 17-acre site, called for the plans committee meeting to be deferred.
"I don't think this meeting should go ahead today. Disabled people cannot attend because there is no way they can get up the stairs, and many people who would like to be here have to be at work," said Mrs Rust, of Manor Terrace.
"We have been told we cannot speak, our councillors cannot speak - who is representing the people when Suffolk Coastal want to bulldoze this through?"
n Should the councillors be banned from speaking - would they be prejudiced? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk
n Opinion see page six.