Hawarden taxpayers are set to fork out thousands of pounds on another election in order fill a vacancy on the Community Council after a group of councillors decided to vote against the ‘guidance’ of senior Flintshire County Council officials.
In a stormy and bad-tempered meeting held at the Hawarden Insitute on Monday evening, the Community Council’s majority Conservative and Independent councillors voted against co-opting Ryan O’Gorman onto the council.
Earlier in the meeting, a decision to co-opt David Hough onto the Council passed on June 12 was rescinded after four councillors lodged a motion to remove him amidst claims his application was submitted after the deadline.
North Wales Police said they were conducting enquiries into allegations of possible election law breaches, it follows alleged CCTV evidence purportedly showing an application letter being delivered to the council office two days later than councillors had initially been told when co-opting Mr Hough to the council.
In a further twist, The wife of Mr Hough, Judith Hough resigned her position as a Hawarden Community councillor it was announced at the meeting.
The move to rescind the council’s decision to co-opt Mr Hough paved the way for Mr O’Gorman, now the only candidate for the uncontested for the Ewloe ward, to be voted onto the council as his application “satisfied all the eligibility criteria.”
However, councillors voted 10 to 8 against co-opting Mr O’Gorman, who stood as a Labour candidate in the recent Local Government election, to the Council.
The Clerk of the Council Sharron Jones asked the group of ten councillors who voted against the move to co-opt Mr O’Gorman for a valid reason as to why they rejected him.
Cllr Helen Brown who is also a Flintshire County councillor said; “The reason is there was such a mix up with the monitoring officer giving the wrong advice due to to a ‘typo’ it is probably fair to let the people of Ewloe ward decide who represents them.
Cllr Dan Preece said: “Cllr Helen Brown would prefer to spend £3000 of public money than let a valid application be accepted onto this council.
Cllr Helen Brown a former cabinet member for housing said; “I didn’t say that i gave a reason why, no one has come forward with a reason, I’ve just given a reason, I didn’t say that you are putting words into my mouth.”
Chair of the Council Cllr Diskin clearly getting agitated by the antics in the chamber repeatedly smashed the gavel onto the table in a bid to gain order.
Cllr Kevin Jones said: “I think the reason for not voting is all this stress of legal action, we all voted from our hearts, to be honest i could’nt to put into words the reason why or the process.”
Cllr Helen Brown repeated her line; “Let Ewloe decide – there has been to many hours spent in the last meeting, it’s all a bit of a mess don’t you agree.”
In response Cllr Emma Preece said; “That is not the candidates’ fault that is the fault of the people in this room, why are you penalising the candidate and not giving a valid reason?”
Monitoring Officer Statement
The Clerk read out a statement from the Monitoring Officer it said: “To re-run the process ie run an election again would give the opportunity for the previous late applicant (Mr Hough) to re-apply and that would be unfair to the one can who submit on time (Mr O’Gorman)
Following more arguing and gavel interjections from the Chair, it was finally agreed for those councillors who opposed the co-opting of Mr O’Gorman to email the Clerk and give their reasons as to why they voted against Mr O’Gorman privately.
Cllr Emma Preece later told Deeside.com:
I feel that having to spend £3000 on an unwarranted election is a frivolous act and a serious misuse of public money. The councillors who voted against the only valid candidate could not and would not give any valid reasons not to.
This is because, in my eyes, it was purely political; the majority of the councillors are independent so party politics shouldn’t come in to it but it obviously did.
Cllr Dan Preece said it inexcusable to squander £3000 on an election:
We had a perfect candidate for co-option, the public need to know about this.
The councillors who voted against need to be accountable for their actions; they have taken money away from our community and I am personally disgusted by it.
I am a new councillor and I had no idea this is how some councillors work. I thought everyone was there for our community regardless of political persuasion but it is clear that is not the case.
It seems that the independent councillors have an alliance with the conservative councillors and voted in the same way against the candidate purely because he is Labour. Under Standing Order 81, we should vote in the public interest based on advice from the clerk, that certainly wasn’t the case.
Cllr Gillian Brockley said;
I feel it is an unnecessary and unwarranted choice by the Conservative and Independent Councillors of Hawarden Community Council to be willing to spend thousands of pounds of public money on another election to fill the vacancy on the Community Council, due to them voting against the one valid and uncontested application that was received, going against advice from the Clerk, the monitoring Officer and the Returning Officer.
They have seemingly putting their own personal and prejudicial reasons before the good of the community. This money could be used to benefit the community in a far more practical and productive way, for example our playgrounds, our environment, our community events, especially in these times of austerity.
*One councillor rounded on a Deeside.com following an article published yesterday titled: ‘Allegations of ‘election law breaches’ at Hawarden Community Council being investigated by Police’
The councillor said; “I read an article on Deeside.com accusing Hawarden Community Council of Election Fraud” which brought nods of agreement from a few fellow councillors.
For the record, Deeside.com comments published in the article are from Flintshire County Council officers, North Wales Police and those published in the council’s own agenda documents posted on the council website.
One comment did refer to ‘allegations of election law breaches’ which was a comment from Flintshire County Council and related to the recent Local Government Elections and the General Election.
In a bid to decode the term ‘election law breaches’ we used Google search which returned two documents from the Electoral Commission including a pdf fact sheet on Electoral Fraud – from this a sentence was added about breaches of elections law being commonly known as Electoral Fraud – at no point has Deeside.com accused the council of Electoral Fraud.
This was pointed out to the councillor by the Council Clerk.
The line has since been taken out to avoid any further confusion.