‘Hatred’ splits the council

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A MORECAMBE Town Council meeting has once again descended into childish squabbling.

As councillors argued, dredging up past issues regarding last year’s split in the Morecambe Bay Independents, one member of the public shouted: “This is worse than the school playground.”

Coun Evelyn Archer, head of the Independence 4 Morecambe group, went as far as to accuse her former MBI colleagues of “hating” her.

She erupted when some councillors groaned as she mentioned the role she and her late husband Mike had played in the setting up of the council in 2009. She said, directing her comments at the MBIs: “The hatred for me is obvious from you over there. I took you to Standards (local government watchdog Standards England), I know the truth.”

Council chair Roger Plumb yelled: “You are out of order” in the direction of Coun Archer. Her comments referred to an investigation into accusations of bullying by MBI councillors last year which Standards England said were unfounded.

Margaret Pattison, Labour councillor, said she was “embarrassed” to be sitting on the council as yet another meeting descended into chaos.

Tensions rose at last Tuesday’s annual town meeting over the public perception of the town council and the fact that there were no Independence 4 Morecambe councillors on the council’s committees, elected at an earlier extraordinary meeting.

As the meeting settled down, several councillors called for peace for the good of the resort.

Labour councillor Darren Clifford said: “I think we all thought after the election the fighting would stop and it’s got to. Personal attacks do this council no credit and we should stop it now.”

Labour councillor Janice Hanson said: “Some people are here to have a bit of a go but (this council) is a good thing for Morecambe.”

Coun Plumb said: “Tensions run deep over a long time and a lot of hurtful things have been said.

“I hope we can move forward over the next 12 months with Morecambe in mind.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, Coun Archer said: “I am disappointed at the outcome of the extraordinary meeting of the town council.

“The union of the Morecambe Bay Independents and the Labour group resulted in myself and the other Independence 4 Morecambe members not receiving any seats on any committees. The chairman asked for the council to be united, how can this happen when four members have been prevented from membership of any committee by his own group the MBIs?”

After the meeting Coun Plumb told The Visitor: “I take full responsibility for the way the council committees were put together and organised.”

Also at the meeting members of the public expressed their dismay at the disbanding of the council’s planning committee. One member of the public also voiced his anger at Coun Marsland’s comment that “Morecambe has its fair share of nutters” at last month’s meeting during a heated debate on public participation. Coun Marsland has since told The Visitor he meant no offence by the term and meant that some people in the resort are simply eccentric.

The town council has been beset by rows this year and police even had to be called out to a meeting in March due to a disturbance in the public gallery.

nMorecambe Town Council has received a £220,500 annual parish precept, which is a portion of council tax, for the past three years.

Recent expenditure includes funding Morecambe’s Top 20 festivals season (£82,000) and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) (£67,000).

The council currently has around £130,000 in its coffers. The council’s finance committee will meet this Monday at 7pm at the fire station to discuss further expenditure.