There was a rousing show of support for one of Belford’s councillors after a call last month for him to resign due to a photo on Facebook.
At the December meeting of the parish council, a member of the public, Geoff Stafford, asked if a breach of the council’s code of conduct had taken place in relation to a photo in which Coun Ian Carruthers, the vice-chairman, appeared to be dressed as a gollywog. Coun Carruthers, also known as Reg, was not at the meeting.
Mr Stafford had filmed the meeting and taken photos and these were used in reports by other regional and national media before Christmas.
However, at last week’s meeting, the first since the call for his resignation, it was clear that many of the locals are behind Coun Carruthers and are grateful for all that he does for the community.
A number of residents turned out simply to show their support. One reflected on the various events he is involved with, saying ‘he works tremendously hard for the village’. She added: “I really hope Ian doesn’t lose his seat on the council, because I think Belford would be a sadder place for it.”
Another pointed out that being a parish councillor is a voluntary role, with people giving up their own time.
County councillor for the area, Coun John Woodman, agreed, saying: “We have seen it elsewhere in the county at other parish and town councils and what worries me is when one or two people get obsessed with things that don’t matter. Life’s too short.”
Mr Stafford was not at last Thursday’s meeting, but the chairman, Coun Brenda Stanton, explained that the matter was referred to Liam Henry, the county council’s chief monitoring officer, who confirmed that the code of conduct had not been breached.
“This is a personal Facebook entry and it is not used by the vice-chairman in his role as a parish councillor.”
Later in the meeting, Coun Carruthers thanked the village for their support, adding that he had been ‘overwhelmed’ with the response.
Content of minutes confirmed after advice
The minutes of the parish council will continue to be produced in the same way, after advice confirmed that there were no issues.
Resident Geoff Stafford had also complained at the December meeting that inaccurate minutes were being signed off as the true record.
Coun Brenda Stanton had said at that meeting that some items such as correspondence did not have to be included in the minutes.
Nonetheless, the clerk had contacted NALC (the National Association of Local Councils) for further advice and the format of the minutes was discussed at last Thursday’s meeting.
The public question time does not form part of the main agenda and does not need to be minuted, but it was agreed that any questions which require responses will be minuted.
Advice from NALC also confirmed that no further action should be taken by the parish council in relation to another complaint by Mr Stafford – an alleged incident outside a meeting last year – as an outside agency had investigated, taken no further action and had not asked the parish council to take action.