Holbeach Parish Council offices

Concern raised over bid to lower Holbeach Parish Council numbers amid more infighting

There have been calls for people to step in after yet more in-fighting and claims of bullying within Holbeach Parish Council.

The authority has asked South Holland District Council to consult on whether it can lower its numbers from 18 to 16.

But at last week’s meeting of SHDC’s Full Council the town’s district councillors spoke of their disappointment and criticised the parish council for not keeping hold of councillors.

Coun Francis Biggadike asked if the district council could step in due to its running.

But Monitoring Officer Mark Stimpson said: “In terms of intervening we don’t have powers to do so.

“In the case of Holbeach we have assisted where we can as part of the process but it isn’t a regulatory power we have.”

Coun Nick Worth said: “I’m disappointed, particularly that they’re suggesting taking away a councillor from the villages.

“We don’t have a lot of representation in there at the best of times so it’s disappointing.

“I will back up Coun Tracey Carter in that the issue doesn’t seem to be getting councillors, it seems to be hanging on to them.”

At Holbeach Parish Council’s April meeting Coun Tim Wiltshire handed out a document with allegations against councillors and staff including alleging former councillor had left in recent months due to bullying.

The Voice has tried to contact the councillors that had left about the claims but had not received responses.

Parish clerk Jan Hearsey responded to the claims.

“Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils (LALC) have advised us that the issues raised within the document about councillors can only be dealt with through the monitoring officer at SHDC and therefore we as a council are unable to consider Coun Wiltshire’s allegations on our agenda.

“If Coun Wiltshire wishes to progress these further he needs to make a standards complaint about each councillor in particular.”

When asked after the meeting if he would make formal complaints, Coun Wiltshire said: “I probably won’t send in a standards complaint, as the standards process has no teeth, and I have found bigger fish to fry.”

Holbeach Parish Council says it has completed an investigation into a claim by Coun Wiltshire that a member of staff had broken data protection.

Mrs Hearsey said: “LALC have confirmed this should have been raised by the HR committee and kept confidential, however, in light of the allegation not being made public it’s been fully investigated and our employment law advisors have advised us not to take the matter any further as the allegations are unfounded.

“Coun Wiltshire’s actions constituted a data protection breach which has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they are now investigating the matter.”

Coun Wiltshire responded by issuing an Freedom of Information request in the middle of the meeting.

“I’m so kept in the dark I have to issue an FOI for my own information,” he said.

He later revealed the request was for his first aid certificate, which was sent out the following day. Part of it was blacked out due to it containing the details of a third party, the parish council said, though Coun Wiltshire said he would report this to the ICO.

He said at last week’s meeting: “Nobody comes on the council and this relates to the bullying.

“Nobody wants to serve. I’ve spent a long time going round and round asking people to come on.”

Coun Sophie Hutchinson responded that Coun Steve Lewis was being inducted that evening.
Following SHDC’s Full Council a consultation will now take place on whether to reduce the number from 18 to 16 councillors. It currently has ten councillors after numerous resignations and infighting in recent years.

Coun Carter told SHDC Full Council: “I’m happy to support the recommendations but it’s a shame Holbeach hasn’t had a full compliment of councillors for a number of years. I’m not sure reducing the numbers is the best way forward.”

* Cowbit Parish Council will also hold a consultation as it’s looking to increase the number of councillors that serve on it from five to seven.
“This is to ensure a fair representation within the parish given the increased electorate in recent years,” documents presented to SHDC state.

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