Council feud inflamed by claims of ‘secret’ meeting and cemetery cost concerns
PUBLISHED: 11:07 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:21 18 September 2018
A long-running feud between a Suffolk council and residents’ group has reignited over claims of a “secretive” meeting and concerns over a £500,000 cemetery extension.
Hadleigh Town Council, which in recent months has suffered internal rifts and a referendum calling for councillors to resign, faced its latest criticism last week over a meeting held in private.
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Former deputy mayor Bill Wilson, who resigned from the council over concerns with its organisation, criticised the “confidential meeting” after being excluded. He also claimed the council failed to post a public notice of the meeting, despite being required to do so.
“The secrecy continues,” he wrote on a the Hadleigh Together Facebook page. “Making up their own rules continues.”
Councillor Jan Byrne, dismissed Mr Wilson’s comments as “nonsense.” “Every time the council does anything Hadleigh Together has some criticism to make of it,” she added.
She said it was normal practice for the meeting to be private as it involved commercial discussions about cemetery contracts.
Although she did acknowledge the mistake of not posting a public notice, Mrs Byrne insisted the town council was “responsible” and not secretive.
Hadleigh Together members said the transparency concerns were more widespread.
“The thing with the cemetery is that every conversation has been confidential, whether it’s commercially sensitive or not,” said Steve Allman, one of the group’s founding members.
Mr Allman said the cemetery extension is of “real concern” to residents, who believe the council is borrowing £500,000 without plans for repayment. “The mayor has committed to disclosing full project costs in previous meetings, but this hasn’t happened,” he added. “Public questions at meetings have gone unanswered.”
Fellow member Gavin Talbot said the project faced fundamental flaws and showed the council’s “general disdain” for engaging with public concerns.
Mrs Byrne again rejected the claims. “The cemetery plan has been ongoing for a number of years,” she said. “The contact was awarded, the loan was taken out and all councillors knew how long the loan would be. The repayments are going forward and we know that we are covering the loan from the income of the cemetery, so it’s straight forward.”