Rothbury Parish Council round-up

Snow in Coquetdale.
Snow in Coquetdale.

A row has broken out over the purchase of used-iron bollards, with claims that members did not agree to buy them.

This month’s agenda stated that an invoice of £648, with a quote having been agreed at a previous meeting and payment required in advance for bollards to be secured, had been authorised, further to consultation between chairman Caroline Dawson, Coun Peter Dawson and clerk Claire Miller. The payment has since gone through.

Coun Caroline Dawson said that the clerk had advised that there did not appear to be provision in the financial standing orders to authorise the payment, but Coun Peter Dawson had referred to section 4.1 of the standing orders – expenditure on revenue items – to authorise the purchase.

But Coun Jeff Sutton said: “I have a problem with this – we agreed the price, but we did not agree the purchase, because we wanted to wait until we found out the installation cost.

“Procedures have not been followed and we have got a big bill for something that this council did not agree on.

“It’s bad practice, whatever way you look at it. The principle is that nothing goes through this council unless it has a majority vote.”

Coun Avril Graham described the situation as untenable and added: “It leaves Peter open to charges of nepotism.”

Members believed that the bollards were a capital expenditure, instead of revenue, and it was suggested to highlight the issue with the auditor.

Coun Peter Dawson was not present at the meeting.

• Coun Steven Bridgett praised the winter services teams and local contractors for their efforts during the Beast from the East. But he said: “As a result of the bad weather, the potholes are atrocious. But, we are coming to the start of the new financial year and Rothbury ward has the highest slice of funding in the Local Transport Plan, although it’s still not enough.”

• Upper Coquetdale Community Transport is providing a vital service and its Rothbury Shoppers scheme is offering an important lifeline to elderly residents, the meeting heard. And those involved with the project hope to expand the shoppers’ initiative to areas such as Alwinton, Harbottle, Sharperton and possibly Clennell.

• Problems at the youth shelter seem to have eased, the meeting heard. Concerns have previously been raised about anti-social issues at the site. Coun Avril Graham said: “It has been very quiet since the police did a couple of walkabouts.” The meeting heard that attempts have been made to remove the graffiti, but some of it is still there.

• Members discussed a request from The Stephen Carey Fund to take over the maintenance of defibrillators within the parish. Couns Steven Bridgett and Jeff Sutton were in favour. Coun Bridgett said: “We should take it on. It is a priority for the community and it is a necessity for a rural village,” while Coun Sutton added that training, which is offered by the charity, would be useful.