Council leader dismisses claims of democratic deficit by rival councillors

Cllr Yvonne Peacock.

Richmondshire District Council’s leadership has dismissed claims that it is operating in an increasingly autocratic style.

Leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock said allegations that her Conservative administration was denying residents, elected councillors and parish councils the chance voice views on key issues was “a cheap shot”.

A full meeting of the authority heard the previous leader of the authority, Independent councillor John Blackie, claim the controversial plan for a five-fold increase in council tax for second home owners in the Yorkshire Dales had been presented to members as a “fait accompli” with no discussion.

Councillor Lorraine Hodgson added: “I feel let down that everything is decided before a meeting starts.”

Several opposition councillors raised concerns that five of the authority’s meetings had been cancelled since February, including two of the Corporate Board, where key matters affecting residents such as council tax are discussed.

Councillor Paul Cullen said: “I have never known so many council meetings be cancelled. There’s normally too much business to fit into the agendas.”

Councillor Helen Grant added: “People vote people in to represent them. The only place you can represent them is at meetings and if you cancel meetings that diminishes the democratic process.”

Cllr Peacock said the fact that her second home owners tax proposal was defeated illustrated democracy.

She added: “We don’t work with anybody apparently, we don’t seem to do anything, we sit here and do nothing.

“I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. We work with parish and town councils all the time.”

She cited examples of how the district council had worked with Richmond Town Council on CCTV and Leyburn Town Council on community-led housing.

Councillor Jimmy Wilson-Petch said he was “astounded” by the criticisms.

He added: “We work tirelessly, I am a full-time businessman, but I put hours and hours into my council work.

“I am very proud of what I do and how we communicate with our parishioners and I don’t think there is anything we have done that has not been communicated to.”

2 Comments

  1. I have lived here over 40 years and i don’t feel that there is enough communication with the council and the people of Richmond and surrounding areas , i agree it does seem to be coming dictatorial .

  2. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
    As for ‘working tirelessly’, that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with democracy.
    I recall attending a planning committee meeting where the Conservative majority on the committee voted en bloc to pass an application in the face of well over 100 local residents’ objections, totally ignoring the opposing point of view, as expressed by the non-conservative members of the committee, when it was obvious that the outcome had been pre-determined. Much the same seems to have happened in the case of the recent application for further holiday homes near Richmond, despite concerns about contamination of the environment.
    The policy seems to be: We will allow you to express objections, and then ignore them.

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