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Is Hadleigh Town Council referendum 'irresponsible' or 'necessary'?

Hadleigh High Street. Picture: Mark Westley. (2453619)
Hadleigh High Street. Picture: Mark Westley. (2453619)

A member of the troubled Hadleigh Town Council has called those seeking to oust councillors in a referendum “irresponsible” - but critics say the vote is necessary because the council has become “dysfunctional”.

Residents are expected to vote on June 28 on whether or not they would like to see all current members to resign, after a motion to hold the poll was approved at an extraordinary public meeting last month, attended by 100 people.

The motion, which was also supported by some councillors, is the culmination of months of internal disputes between older and newer members, as well as growing public discontent about the level of transparency on local matters.

But in a letter sent to Hadleigh Community News, sitting town councillor Jane Haylock criticised the movement to remove existing members, claiming it would cost the council £10,000 - although Babergh District Council stated last month the expected cost of holding the poll is £3,000.

“It is irresponsible to force the council to incur this expense when all councillors will have to resign anyway for April next year for the parish and district council elections,” Cllr Haylock wrote.

“It is not only councillors who have been subjected to stress, but also our three loyal office staff. They have been subjected to disrespect, rudeness and demands caused by attempts to disrupt the working of the council.”

But Hadleigh Together, a newly-formed community group, responded that some councillors had been distorting the facts, arguing the referendum would not be needed if the council were not “dysfunctional”, nor if members had taken the opportunity to resign when the motion passed.

Meanwhile, Rickaby Shearly-Sanders, one of the councillors who backed the motion, said he felt it had not been “business as usual” at the council for nearly a year, citing a lack of activity after the suspension of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group last July - an action which he did not believe was lawful.

He told the Free Press: “The question is, is the invisible Berlin Wall wrapped around the council about to fall?

“If it is, then this should open up opportunities for the engagement of the whole of our community, not just a back room full of town councillors, and help to bring us together to manage adaptation, whilst preserving the character of our community.

“Above all else, many talented and socially engaged people live in Hadleigh who can, looking forward, help towards the creation and provision of jobs and homes in Hadleigh for our children and young people.

“To achieve this Hadleigh needs an open, transparent and engaged council.”