Council seeks legal advice over allegations

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A PARISH council is taking legal advice after allegations that it is operating illegally.

Seven of the nine councillors at Rothbury have not signed a declaration of office document, which means that their position is technically vacant.

But it also means the council is not legally constituted and therefore it cannot legally make decisions on behalf of the public.

The concerns were raised at last week’s Rothbury Parish Council meeting by Coun Steven Bridgett after he and Coun Roz Tinlin were welcomed as new members.

Coun Bridgett said: “Not all members of the council have signed the declaration of acceptance of office and declaration of interest and they are supposed to be signed immediately after election. It means the council is breaking the law.”

But chairman Coun Jeff Reynalds said he was not convinced that the council was illegal. He told Coun Bridgett: “I haven’t got the confidence in your knowledge or judgement on this so we will seek legal advice.”

Coun Mark Gilson and Coun Joy Morton both said they had not signed any declarations.

But Coun Peter Dawson criticised Coun Bridgett, saying it could have been raised more informally out of ‘courtesy’.

If the declarations have not been signed, an immediate election will need to be held.

However, as only Couns Bridgett and Tinlin would be deemed as legal, the county council would need to appoint other councillors to call an election. All seven seats would be vacant.

The Gazette understands that a letter has been sent to the parish council from a county council solicitor, warning that action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

After the meeting Coun Bridgett said if the situation isn’t rectified the council will not be able to set its precept.