Co-option clash at Fremington Parish Council

A Fremington councillor has said she regrets taking part in proceedings to co-opt five new members on to the parish council.

Councillor Joanne Bell, elected in December, said she was shocked to discover the choosing of new councillors at the January council meeting was held behind closed doors and that none of the seven candidates were asked to attend or speak.

But Fremington Parish Council says it has followed to the letter the new co-option policy it adopted in November, whereas before it had none at all.

The vacancies were left following the resignation of six councillors last autumn. Where an election is not called the council invites parishioners to apply for co-option, submitting a CV and relevant information as to experience, background and why they wish to become a councillor.

Mrs Bell said she now regretted taking part in the co-option, held behind closed doors in the confidential section of the agenda.

“It was over in about six minutes and we didn’t hear anything from any of the candidates,” she said.

“I’m not criticising that it was done in private, but the way it was done. I knew nothing about any of the candidates and I am ashamed I took part in that, but it was because I was a new councillor and not quite clear what was going on.”

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The council co-option policy states it is there to ensure the procedure is fair and transparent.

Parish clerk Clare Dalley said information on all seven candidates had been sent out to every councillor some three weeks before the meeting.

“Mrs Bell has raised her concerns with the clerk but has not requested the item be put back on the agenda for the council to look again at the co-option process,” she said.

Council chairman Councillor John Gill said all councillors had plenty of time to read the information on candidates and since it included peoples’ personal details the item was taken in the confidential section of the agenda.

“The co-option policy was democratically voted on to adopt theses processes at November’s full council meeting,” he said.

“That’s democracy, that’s the way we wish to do it and if a councillor objects or would like to see it differently they will have to come back to us on it.”

At the meeting on Monday, January 10 the council voted to co-opt

Janette Storer and Patrick Oakey for the Bickington ward, Peter David and Martin Trainor for Woodville and Robert Leggett for Roundswell.

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