Calls for mayor to resign after ‘unlawful’ call-off of meeting
PUBLISHED: 13:11 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:11 10 July 2020
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016
Councillors are calling for a mayor to resign after he called off a full council meeting two minutes before it was due to start.
Tony Crouch cancelled the Attleborough Town Council meeting on Wednesday, July 6, because of apparent confusion over an “unclear” agenda item to discuss mayoral elections.
This left 39 residents and Breckland Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen waiting online for the virtual meeting for more than 15 minutes with no idea why it had not started.
Now eight of his fellow councillors are calling on Mr Crouch to step down, saying they want to elect a mayor “more capable of commanding trust from the public”.
But Mr Crouch defended himself, saying he believed he was following advice from the town council’s solicitor.
He added: “It was very sad but I felt there was no option but to postpone the meeting, and this was made worse as it was later confirmed the advice had not even come from the council’s solicitor and was incorrect.”
In a statement signed by Edward Tyrer, Taila Taylor, Vera Dale, Joseph Ellis, Philip Leslie, Lucan Grave, Bill Loades and Andrew Westby, Mr Crouch’s actions were described as “extremely questionable” and they demanded an apology.
They said: “First and foremost a huge apology. Tony Crouch’s decision does nothing to improve the standing of Attleborough Town Council in the eyes of residents.
“Cancelling the meeting, refusing to answer the public’s questions and preventing us from holding this council to account simply compounds the problems this town faces and stops individual councillors from making a positive difference for the town.
“The cancellation of the meeting once an agenda was issued was unlawful.
“No councillor should be able to prevent this council from functioning and Tony Crouch should have been advised as such by the legal officer to the council.
“This would not be the first time where individuals and/or the council has carried out actions which are extremely questionable and undermine public trust.”
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Mr Crouch said: “We were all set to have the meeting but on the day an agenda item was challenged, and advice claimed to be from the town council’s solicitor was circulated by one of our councillors.
“Until this information could be confirmed with the solicitor a choice had to be made whether or not to go ahead.
“It is all a great shame and I do want to apologise to anyone who was expecting to view the meeting. “We have now rescheduled and hope the meeting will now take place without any further problems.”
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Attleborough Town Council has now confirmed a meeting has been rescheduled for Monday, July 13.
Mr Tyrer, council vice-chairman, who wrote the statement on behalf on the eight, said: “It was agree on June 1 that at the next council meeting we would debate the mayoral elections - but this was not represented on Monday’s agenda.
“We requested tweaks to the agenda, whereby the ability to discuss the elections could be clearly stated.
“But the fact the council had all afternoon and at 5.58pm an email from the office was sent to say the meeting wouldn’t take place is appalling.
“It is poor, amateurish and embarrassing for the town council.
“All this is doing is damaging the town, businesses, the community and Attleborough’s reputation with key stake holders, such as the district and county council.
“I’m saddened and disillusioned it has taken until today to discuss this and issue a very weak apology.”
Ms Taylor added: “The town council has become a laughing stock in the last 12 months.
“Rather than bypass an item while you seek clarification or amend the agenda, it was decided to cancel the entire meeting.
“Once the agenda has been published, if the meeting is to be cancelled that should be at the discussion of the whole council, not one individual councillor.
“It shows a lack of respect for other members as well as the public. It is such a disappointing situation.”
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