Just to recap:
Under Labour control the Parish Council ended up with:
1. A County Court judgement against it – for the first time in its history
2. Paying £3,100 in rent arrears to the Barlborough Civic Trust
3. Spent over £3,000 in legal fees trying to over turn the County Court judgement – but then settled out of court
4. Cllr Watts stepped down as Chair of the Parish Council in May 2008 handing the poisoned chalice to Cllr Oldknow along with (the Vice Chair) Cllr Lee. Cllrs Oldknow and Lee resigned in August 2008 after a fallout in the Labour Party.
5. The Labour Party then called for an election – that will cost Barlborough Parish Council another £3,000…
‘Bullying and intimidation has to stop’
Bitter row erupts over village hall
Published in the Worksop Guardian: 16 May 2008
By Helen Mullins
Barlborough Parish Council is locked in a battle with Barlborough Civic Trust over a disagreement about payments totalling nearly £5,000. The trust say they will take the council to county court because of unpaid debts amounting to £4,770 for the use of the building.
At a parish council meeting on Monday night this week, residents arrived at the village’s town hall, which is owned by the parish council, to find the room used to hold the council’s monthly meeting was locked.
“We have been locked out of our own building by the Civic Trust, it’s unbelievable,” said former parish council chairman, Eion Watts. An alternative venue had to be found quickly, and councillors asked residents to relocate to Barlborough Resource Centre behind the Village Hall where the meeting could be held.
Local people were directed to a computer room in the resource centre and they had to sit on swivel chairs and peer around computers and filing cabinets while the meeting was held. “It’s absolutely ridiculous, everyone is bickering amongst themselves – they should just sort it out,” said one bemused resident. “I can’t believe the council were locked out of their own building, it’s embarrassing.”
When the village hall was built in 1993, the trust was set up by the parish council as a charity to run the hall and Little School. The council handed over a 99-year lease of the buildings to the trust. But in July last year, the parish council decided to take over the running of the buildings and withdrew the quarterly grants they gave to the trust. “When they took the grants away we had to start charging the council to use the buildings to make up for the money we had lost,” said Mel Webster vice chairman. “We were set up as a charity so that we could get grants and additional benefits that the council could not get.” “The 99-year lease cannot just be taken away from us – we can give it up but they cannot take it away and we have continued to run the buildings.”
“They are trying to get us to fold by starving us of money. I am disappointed that is has come to this – we gave them many opportunities to reply and make things right but they have behaved unreasonably,” he said. Mr Webster went on to say that the trust had sent numerous letters to the parish council asking for payment, all of which went unanswered.
Eion Watts, who had been chairman of the council for the last year before Steve Oldkanow took over on Monday night, read out a letter send to the council by Barlborough Civic Trust. In it, the trust warned that if the sum was not paid by the 12th May – the night of the meeting – then the village hall meeting room would be locked. The trust went on to claim in the letter that the council has been ‘intolerable’ in its abuse of the Village Hall by not paying them for its use. The trust said they would have to take the council to county court to retrieve the cash. In response, Mr Watts angrily claimed that trust had been holding ‘illegal meetings’ that the parish council had not been invited to.
“I suggest as a council we fight this to the bitter end so the people see exactly what is going on here,” said Mr Watts. “They tried to blackmail us tonight and if they want to go to court I say let’s go to court. I have had 12 months of bullying, hate mail and intimidation and it has to stop.”
And in another twist on Monday night, reference was made to a ‘restructuring’ of the parish council, which is believed to include the council’s clerk of four years, Rosalind Bullimore. After deciding that an agenda item about the ‘clerk’s grievances’ should be discussed after the meeting with the presence of the press and the public, councillors still referred to the clerk’s ‘redundancy’.
“This is absolutely disgusting,” the clerk said to the councillors at the meeting. Parish councillors John Shaw and Bridget Ingle agreed that the discussion was insensitive and ‘appalling’ and left the meeting out of protest. Mrs Bullimore followed minutes later for a five minute break. But councillors said she was too upset to return to the meeting and a member of the public had to step in and act as clerk at the meeting.
When contacted by the Guardian this week, Mrs Bullimore said she has not returned to work since the meeting but is still technically the council’s clerk. She confirmed that the council plans to make her redundant and that a junior and senior post is being put in her place. Councillors told Mrs Bullimore that the junior post has been filled and that she can apply for the senior position.’