Source of parish complaints is outed

A member of the public who is alleged to have made more than 100 complaints to Rothbury Parish Council was named at last week’s parish annual assembly.

Tony Kell, from the village, was identified as the man who had been ‘pursuing the council persistently’ and asked to explain his actions.

In his speech to the public meeting, which saw an unprecedented number of residents turn out, parish council chairman, Mark Gilson, said Mr Kell had made numerous complaints which had ‘severely interfered with its ability to deliver the services residents deserve’.

However when given a chance to respond to the parish council, Mr Kell, who is standing for election, said that he wanted to help the council.

He said: “What I am about is just trying to progress the parish council, which has operated with a measure of success for a lot of years, but hasn’t taken account of the changes in law which have come in, in the last 10 to 20 years.”

Mr Kell added that in 2012 an external audit report had found that the council had no governance rules on which to conduct its business, no financial regulations and no risk assessment.

He asked if anyone had seen it and no one replied.

And he said that the council had not been applying ‘due diligence’ and needs more transparency.

He also wanted to see that the council published more information including audit reports, minutes of meetings held in private and added: “Simple transparency is the key issue.”

The meeting heard that Mr Kell had used a solicitor to act against the parish council.

His wife told the meeting: “All he wanted to do was get it straight. It isn’t supposed to be a vicious attack, it is supposed to get it right.”

Coun Steven Bridgett said that over the last two years the council has strived to improve its governance procedures and that members of the council and its clerk have tried to improve practices and how they operate.

During the annual assembly Mr Kell was given two public warnings for ‘overstepping the mark’ and told he would be removed if a third was given.

After the meeting Mr Kell said he felt that the use of warnings, from parish council chairman Mark Gilson, cut short his responses which meant he wasn’t able to give a ‘full explanation’ for his motives behind questioning the council.

He added: “Now that my private questioning has been made public, I challenge council to start to make progress.” He also invited anyone wishing to support him to contact him.