Wednesday 19th June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

YARM Town Council ‘Implosion’ Escalates

October 25, 2023 Town & Parish

YARM Town Council ‘Implosion’ Escalates

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, following up on a prophetic Letter to the Editor (published on 13th July 2023), entitled “Yarm Town Council Imploding?”. As the toxicity heightens, the probity shrinks – along with the membership.

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One does not have to travel far from Whitby to encounter a Town Council in which open warfare between members is so acute that abolition seems the only workable solution; Yarm Town Council is in total disarray.

Following the resignation of Councillor Ian CARTER (above, left) at the beginning of the month, I can now confirm that Councillor Alan MOFFITT (above, right) has also jumped ship, citing future health concerns.

Further, Councillor John COULSON has offered to resign if – and only if – three other Councillors will join him in the lifeboat

Councillor COULSON [Con.] is better placed to expedite his departure, of course, having been elected to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (Yarm ward) where he picks up a Basic Allowance of £9,300 per annum (rising to a possible £25K if certain ‘Special Responsibilities’ should come his way).

Councillor COULSON’s threatened ‘sacrifice’ rings rather hollow; like other Yarm Town Councillors, he receives no Allowances for his Town Council role (which some would say is more than some of his colleagues deserve), so he stands to sacrifice very little by abandoning a toxic Council that affords him no material benefit. A man is judged by the company he keeps . . .

Much more of this and the Council’s quorum will be in jeopardy. And locals tell me that the bevy of potential by-elections is attracting little or no interest . . .

Monkey see, monkey do . . .

Suspicions that an all-out vendetta is underway are fortified by the following audio clip from the Extraordinary Meeting of Yarm Town Council held on 10th August 2023, in which Chair, Councillor Peter MONCK, can be heard (starting at about 8 secs in) threatening the same three Councillors whom Councillor COULSON is attempting to oust with Misconduct in Public Office charges and Police action if they do not resign within 48 hours:

The draft Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting transform/dilute Councillor MONCK’s words into:

  • “Cllr Monck briefed the meeting as to his understanding of the penalties for Misconduct in Public Office (e.g. in relation to harassment) and stated that the 3 Councillors had lost respect and invited them to resign, specifically asking Cllr Smailes to stand down as Vice Chair.”

The draft Minutes also record that, later in the the meeting, Councillor MONCK gratuitously continued his “course of action” (legally defined as “two or more instances of conduct prohibited under s.1A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997) against three fellow Councillors, thus:

  • “Cllr Monck reiterated that he was looking into Misconduct in Public Office (which can carry a jail sentence) and that Cllr Smailes and Cllrs Wegg should  consider their position having lost the confidence of fellow councillors and members of the public.  Cllr Monck restated that bullying had no place in YTC and must stop immediately. Continued discussion gave instances where Councillors felt that the Clerk had been bullied.”

The Act reads as follows:

(1A) A person must not pursue a course of conduct
(a) which involves harassment of two or more persons, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know involves harassment of those persons, and
(c) by which he intends to persuade any person (whether or not one of those mentioned above)—
(i) not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or
(ii) to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.

[my highlighting in bold type]

It is noteworthy that Councillor Peter MONCK issued his “resign within 48 hours” threat on 10th August 2023 – ten weeks ago.

His “48 hours” have elapsed around thirty-five times over.

Here are some synonyms for “Idle Threat”:

Those who resort to threats seldom carry them out. This is especially true when the threatened action is virtually incapable of execution.

Quite how a Chair of a Town or Parish Council could even contemplate bandying about threats of criminal charges relating to Misconduct in Public Office (the threshold for which is astronomically high) without first having taken legal advice, or at least having read and digested the Crown Prosecution Services Guidance on the offence, would beggar belief – were it not for the many well-documented instances of Chairs taking, on face value, the entirely unreliable advice of unqualified Clerks/RFOs.

My information is that Vice Chair Councillor Pam SMAILES and her two colleagues, Councillors Bob WEGG and Councillor Mrs Barbara WEGG, have not succumbed to Councillor MONCK’s deplorable efforts “to persuade them to do something that [they are] not under any obligation to do”.

I hope readers will join me in commending them on their steadfast determination to remain in position. It has often been said that all bullies are cowards.

There is no place for bullies (or cowards) in our democratic institutions.

What remains abundantly clear is that Yarm Town Council, its Chair and its Clerk/RFO, present a suitable case for deep scrutiny. I will be surprised if I find nothing further to disclose – and I have a gut feeling that somewhere in my investigations, MONEYfilthy lucre – will rear its ugly head.

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