Parish council’s secret co-option plan abandoned after residents’ protest

Councillors were set to vote in private

Councillors were set to vote in private - Credit: Archant

Shepreth Parish Council was set to co-opt a replacement for Surinder Soond, who resigned from the parish council earlier this year, at its meeting last Thursday.

The council had announced that it planned to exclude the press and public from the vote, causing complaints from villagers.

Residents had been set to protest at the meeting, but the council announced it was delaying the ballot following legal advice.

A statement released by the council said: “The parish council regrets that it is unable to co-opt a parish councillor at tonight’s meeting because of legal advice received on November 11, 2013, and verified on November 12, 2013, in respect of excluding the public and press from the meeting.

“The parish council apologises, unreservedly, for any inconvenience or disappointment occasioned by this decision, especially to the five candidates who put themselves forward for co-option.”

Margaret Hunter, of High Street, Meldreth, was one of a number of residents to contact the Crow and express their concern about the vote.

She said: “It comes as an unpleasant shock when one hears of a transgression of the democratic process on one’s own doorstep.

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“I see this as an example of the worst sort of autocratic action that I have heard about for a long time.

“The villagers of Shepreth need to most strongly register their grave dissatisfaction with this state of affairs which allows such a flagrant dismissal of our democratic and open way of doing things and get it put right.”

Mr Soond took to Twitter to express his displeasure.

He said: “Freedom of speech in Shepreth has been problem and now transparency! The parish clerk, chairman and vice chairman are working beyond remits.”

The parish council will now put together a policy on co-option before scheduling a new vote.